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FAA Top Policy Issues

FAA Reauthorization and Governance

The FAA needs Congressional authorization to conduct its mission.  The FAA's last long-term authorizing legislation expired on September 30, 2015.  Since then, the FAA has operated under three short-term authorization extensions, with the current extension expiring on September 30, 2017.  Over the past nine years, sequestration, the federal government shutdown in 2013, the FAA's authorization lapse in 2011, 23 short-term FAA authorization extensions from 2007 to 2012, and three authorization extensions from 2015 to 2017, have created an environment of instability and unpredictability that has undermined the FAA's ability to effectively perform its safety and efficiency mission while managing modernization and key initiatives. 

In addition, reauthorization is one of the ways Congress articulates priorities and new policy directions for the FAA.  Recent reauthorization provisions have instructed FAA how to address unmanned aircraft policies, airspace modernization initiatives, and pilot qualifications, among other topics.

Action Needed

The new Administration will need to work with Congress and the FAA's stakeholders to develop broadly supported proposals that provide the FAA budget stability, predictability, and flexibility. This legislation could also be the mechanism to set significant new policy directions for manned and unmanned aviation and commercial space transportation initiatives.  The new Administration may need to be prepared as early as next spring to consider and address proposals that would significantly change the overall governance structure of the FAA.  With the current FAA authorization expiring in a matter of months, working with Congress to integrate new priorities with existing imperatives for safety and efficiency is critical.


  • The FAA regulates, designs, and operates critical components of the civil air transportation system in ways that enable the aerospace sector's continued growth, modernization, and international competitiveness. The FAA is at the center of the U.S. air transportation industry and must maintain its critical role as global leader in safety oversight, the development and deployment of new technologies, and management of air traffic services. Globalization of the aviation sector, continued innovation, and new entrants to the aviation community, including Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) and commercial space transportation, are driving dramatic changes to the aviation landscape.  At the same time, the agency must operate in an environment of unstable budgets, competing stakeholder and legislative priorities, and organizational constraints.  FAA reauthorization provides the opportunity to address these challenges and ensure the agency can help foster U.S. global leadership in aviation for the next century.
  • FAA's recent spending has actually declined in critical areas while the agency's responsibilities and NextGen commitments have grown.  While integrating new users of the national airspace system, such as UAS and commercial space transportation, promises to create significant economic opportunities for the United States, it also adds to the agency's resource needs, posing a challenge under constrained Federal budgets. The overall Federal budget is a zero-sum game, and additional requirements divert funds from other planned or ongoing activities.
  • Meeting near- and long-term objectives requires stable, predictable, and flexible budgets for the FAA.  The budget instability over the last several years has undermined the FAA's ability to effectively perform its safety and efficiency mission and manage key initiatives.  This has translated into thousands of delayed flights, put tens of thousands of jobs at risk, held up infrastructure investments worth billions of dollars, shut down critical services, and slowed down the implementation of NextGen, FAA's key airspace modernization initiative.  Long-term funding would enable the FAA to effectively manage and implement its modernization efforts, make aviation safer and smarter, deliver benefits to the traveling public and industry through technology and infrastructure, enhance US aerospace leadership around the globe, and empower and innovate with FAA's people.
  • FAA Reauthorization is an opportunity for the Administration to elevate workable solutions to budget instability, while addressing other key priorities, such as increasing infrastructure investments to modernize critical air traffic control facilities and airports, accelerating environmental efforts to mitigate air pollution and noise impacts to communities, and streamlining aircraft certification processes to enable the adoption of new technologies and support aerospace exports.  Early engagement by the Administration provides an opportunity to shape these key issues as FAA Reauthorization proposals are developed.
  • During this Congress (114th, 2015-2016), Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee introduced a proposal to transfer FAA's ATC functions to a federally chartered, not-for-profit "ATC Corporation," that is outside of the federal appropriations process, governed by a Board of Directors, and with the authority to collect charges and fees from air traffic users[1] (similar to the Canadian air traffic model). The proposal ultimately failed to gain traction in the House or Senate, but Chairman Shuster and certain stakeholders have maintained interest in continuing to pursue such a "privatization" or "corporatization" proposal in the next Congress.
  • While alternative models for FAA governance may be considered in the reauthorization process, the FAA has consistently stated that any governance changes should work to solve the challenges FAA faces, not just reshuffle the organizational structure. Any movement away from the present model needs to ensure more direct accountability to our users and be mindful of the linkage and integration of safety, NextGen, airport infrastructure, and other functions.
  • In conclusion, FAA Reauthorization provides an opportunity for the new Administration, working with the Congress and FAA stakeholders, to significantly shape the future direction of the FAA.  These changes should provide the agency with budget stability, predictability, and flexibility to conduct its mission, modernize its infrastructure, integrate new users, and maintain its global leadership position in aviation.   

SUBMITTED BY: Federal Aviation Administration             

LAST UPDATED: October 26, 2016

Delivering NextGen Benefits


The FAA continually strives to improve operations in the National Airspace System (NAS) and ensure the vitality of the U.S. economy through the transformation of our civil air traffic system with the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). NextGen is no single program, but rather an evolving but integrated collection of programs, systems, and procedures designed to bring about transformative change in how we fly.  This transformation includes a tran­sition from ground-based radar to satellite-enabled technology to track aircraft in flight, modernizing the underlying air traffic control automation systems, new procedures, and vast improvements in the way controllers and pilots share critical safety information.  Successfully building NextGen requires collaboration and investment among the FAA, other federal government agencies, and a wide range of participants, including airlines, general aviation, airports, labor, researchers, manufacturers, and local communities.  NextGen has already delivered $1.6 billion in benefits to the National Airspace System (NAS) and we expect to deliver a total of $160.6 billion in NextGen benefits through 2030. While some air carriers and airspace users recognize the significant benefits that NextGen has already yielded, other operators say they are not yet realizing the benefits they expected. The concrete data shows that we are delivering benefits to industry and the public on time, on budget, and in quantifiable segments.  NextGen continually strives to make aviation safer and smarter, deliver benefits through technology and infrastructure, and enhance our global leadership. Looking ahead, we have a clear path for adding more and more capabilities that will transform the way air traffic is managed and more rapidly provide NextGen benefits.

Action Needed

The Administration may wish to engage with a broad set of stakeholders to ensure the continued success of NextGen, building on the strong foundation of the FAA's collaboration with industry stakeholders to align investments, collaborate on benefits, and increase confidence in NextGen.  It is important for the Administration and the FAA to be open to industry inputs and priorities as well as for industry to know FAA's commitments to specific dates and locations for corresponding investments.  Planning these long term investments and communicating stable schedules for benefit realization requires stability of funding requiring a long term FAA Reauthorization.

Opportunities for engagement include collaboration through the NextGen Advisory Committee, which has resulted in industry commitments and dedication to working together and holding each other accountable; through the Equip 2020 Working Group to identify and resolve barriers to meet the January 1, 2020 FAA mandate for airlines and general aviation to equip with GPS, otherwise known as Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B); and community outreach to make the collaborative process of airspace redesign more transparent to airports, local, state and federal governments, community organizations, and the general public.  Continued collaboration with stakeholders minimizes risk to realizing NextGen benefits.

To unleash the value of spectrum currently assigned to the FAA's aging radar systems, the next several months requires FAA to work with Federal agency partners towards an approved Spectrum Pipeline Plan that would eventually lead to a proposed spectrum auction in 2024.  The Administration may need to facilitate collaboration among the FAA's Federal agency partners to keep plans moving forward to realize its benefits as soon as possible.   


NextGen Stakeholder Engagement and the NextGen Advisory Committee (NAC)

NextGen is on track to meet its objectives, but successfully building NextGen requires collaboration and investment among the FAA, other federal government agencies, and a wide range of participants, including airlines, general aviation, airports, labor, researchers, manufacturers, and local communities. In 2010, recognizing that efforts at industry and stakeholder engagement were not broad enough, the FAA formed the NextGen Advisory Committee (NAC), whose members include a wide-ranging representation of aviation community stakeholders who facilitate industry participation in NextGen, provide recommendations, and review performance objectives. The NAC has also helped set priorities and develop a common language of metrics and milestones among its participants.  The FAA's collaboration with the aviation industry through the NAC has informed the construction of a flexible, resilient, and sustainable infrastructure that NextGen relies upon today. 

A key success of our engagement with the NAC is a collaborative process to identify investments in the overall NextGen plan that will deliver the most near-term benefits to users. An outcome of that collaboration was the development of the NextGen Priorities Joint Implementation Plan, initiated in October 2014, and updated yearly, which outlines both FAA and aviation industry commitments to enable capabilities in four areas that industry recommended: Multiple Runway Operations, Performance Based Navigation, Surface Operations and Data Sharing, and Data Communications. The NAC's involvement in NextGen planning is intended to ensure a positive business case for all who must invest in NextGen, and to provide a venue for tracking progress and sustaining joint commitments. Richard Anderson, CEO of Delta Airlines, chaired the NAC 2014-2016, and the incoming chairman is David Bronczek, President and CEO of FedEx Express. FAA's Deputy Administrator serves as the Designated Federal Official.

NextGen Budget Schedule and Benefits

NextGen, like every other federal initiative, is highly dependent on its budget.  Congress has enacted a total of $7.0 billion for NextGen for fiscal years 2007-2016. Of this total amount, $6.0 billion has been obligated as of September 30, 2015.  The fiscal year 2017 budget request for NextGen is $809M and includes funding to deploy key NextGen programs like Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B), Performance-based Navigation (PBN), Improved Surface Operations and Data Sharing, Data Standards and Information Management, Time Based Flow Management, and Data Communications.  Additionally, funding requested will support the pre-implementation efforts of nearly one dozen NextGen portfolio programs which encompass over 40 NextGen-related projects. This 2017 funding request is roughly equal to our 2016 budget, and includes the cost of approximately 650 FAA staff involved in the effort.    

The overarching objectives for the future remain constant — meet the need for increased capacity and efficiency while maintaining safety and mitigating environmental impacts.  If capacity is to keep pace with forecasted increased demand for services, changes are needed in the way services are provided. At the forefront of the transformation to the future is our commitment to improve operations and ensure the vitality of the U.S. economy through the continued evolution of the NextGen System. The benefits cannot be understated:

  • $39.7 billion in direct operator benefits, including $9.4 billion in fuel savings, $30.2 billion in lower crew and maintenance costs, and $125 million in additional airline flights.
  • $6.5 billion in FAA and other aviation industry benefits, including $1.4 billion in FAA cost savings and $5.1 billion from safety.
  • $114.4 billion in societal benefits: $212 million from reduction of carbon dioxide emissions and $114.2 billion from passenger time savings.

Details on these estimates can be found in the 2016 update to the Business Case for NextGen, which documents the cost-benefit analysis for NextGen as described in TheFuture of the NASreport.  The FAA regularly posts new findings on its NextGen Performance Snapshots (NPS) website:

NextGen Equipage/ADS-B/Space-based ADS-B

As FAA transitions to satellite-enabled technology to track aircraft in flight, airlines and general aviation will need to equip their aircraft with ADS-B equipment.  In May 2010, the FAA issued a regulation that requires aircraft to be equipped with ADS-B by January 1, 2020.   Aircraft are currently tracked by radar technology from the 1950s which refreshes every seven seconds.  ADS-B equipment utilizes GPS to transmit the aircraft's position and other information about the aircraft with a refresh rate of one second.  Eventually, this information can be used by air traffic control to improve the efficiency of the airspace and improve awareness among pilots flying in the system. 

More than 80 industry personnel representing pilots and operators, airlines, aircraft manufacturers, and equipment suppliers met with senior FAA officials in an October 28, 2014 "Call to Action" meeting to identify and address barriers to equipping their aircraft by the deadline. Some of the key issues identified by industry include: cost and availability of upgrading GPS receivers; streamlined certification procedures; development of more low cost avionics; improving product availability; clarifying requirements;  general aviation operator education; and ensuring repair station resources are available to complete installations. The FAA continues to work with the community to assure equipage through the Equip 2020 Working Group.

To help avoid a last-minute rush and potential bottlenecks in installations, the FAA is offering a monetary incentive to help owners of less expensive general aviation aircraft who, because of equipment cost considerations, might be tempted to wait until the last minute. The FAA has launched an ADS-B incentive program in Fall 2016 to offer rebates of $500 on ADS-B units for up to 20,000 aircraft owners (a $10M investment) who have not yet equipped with ADS-B.

NextGen must be nimble and adapt to changing needs, and one of the emerging topics is space-based ADS-BAircraft transiting the oceans are currently spaced 30 miles apart.  The FAA is investigating the use of Space-Based ADS-B for reducing oceanic separation.  This would enhance aircraft operations in U.S. oceanic airspace. We are also working with the International Civil Aviation Organization to analyze these new separation standards for oceanic airspace. These activities will inform the agency's investment decision for space-based ADS-B and related technologies. At this time, we project an initial operating capability in the 2020 timeframe.

Performance Based Navigation Strategy/Metroplex

Performance Based Navigation (PBN) procedures save aircraft fuel and time, increase traffic flow, and result in fewer carbon emissions, by enabling more precise and efficient paths for aircraft to follow. As the NAS continues to evolve from conventional procedures to a PBN-centric airspace system, more PBN procedures will be deployed and supported to enhance safety, efficiency, capacity and access. The PBN Strategy, which is the result of collaborative FAA and industry efforts over the past 10+ years, outlines commitments and achievements needed to complete the transition to a PBN-centric NAS. 

A major NextGen initiative is the Metroplex project, an effort to implement PBN procedures and improvements in the airspace around major metropolitan areas. A systematic approach to implementing PBN in metropolitan areas serves to deconflict airspace in congested areas with multiple airports. To date, the FAA has implemented PBN procedures at four of 12 Metroplexes. A continuing challenge for the Metroplex program is working with communities affected by the changes in aircraft noise resulting from new, streamlined, precise paths used by PBN. Community concerns can lead to expanded scope, extended environmental assessments, and increased project time and costs.  Each individual Metroplex site has its own individual challenges as it pertains to scope and environmental requirements, and the Metroplex program will continue to use lessons learned from implemented sites to better engage communities earlier in the design process for current and future implementation sites, and improve how community feedback is utilized.

Remote Towers

In an effort to provide a cost-effective alternative to constructing traditional brick-and-mortar towers at currently non-towered airports, the FAA is exploring the provision of air traffic control services through the use of remote tower systems. Remote tower systems are comprised of cameras and/or other instruments that provide data to an air traffic controller who is not in the same location. Several (mostly European) countries are pursuing the concept of remote tower services, with Sweden the first to become operational. Initial work at two locations, Leesburg, Virginia and Fort Collins, Colorado, is being conducted to identify potential performance standards and levels of service remote towers could offer, based on airport characteristics, operations, and other factors. Leesburg is expected to begin initial operating capabilities during 2017.

Other Major NextGen Capabilities

  • Data Communications (Data Comm):  Data Comm supplements voice communication 
    between the air traffic controllers and the pilots with digital text-based messages.  Reduced communications time results in faster taxi outs and reduced delays. Data Comm also enhances safety by virtually eliminating the chance of the flight crew misunderstanding the message from air traffic control. Tower services are available at 56 airports. The FAA formulated an equipage incentive program to ensure enough aircraft (1,900) are Data Comm capable by 2019 to realize the Data Comm benefits. Expanded Data Comm services at all FAA high-altitude air traffic control centers are planned beginning in 2019. There is no mandate or rule for the Data Comm program, so the program is entirely benefits driven and operator participation in the program is voluntary. However, by 2018, more than 2,500 heavy aircraft will be equipped with Data Comm including the 1,900 this investment helped finance.
  • System Wide Information Management (SWIM):  This is the data-sharing backbone of our airspace, providing access to relevant and understandable information such as flight data, weather, airport operational status and special use airspace status via publication and subscriptions. Airlines have been getting valuable and essential airport surface data since 2012 with Airport Surface Detection Equipment-Model X (ASDE-X). Airports equipped with ASDE-X fuse multiple data sources to give controllers an accurate picture of runway and taxiway activity. 
  • Collaborative Air Traffic Management (CATM):  Over the past few years, major improvements in strategic flow and Collaborative Air Traffic Management has been made, improving the way the FAA manages major disruptions caused by weather every day. The FAA's Traffic Flow Management System, the system used to deliver new NextGen CATM capabilities, helps controllers monitor demand and capacity, assess impacts of system constraints and helps determine, with airline dispatch managers, how to make adjustments to avoid delays.
  • Wake Recategorization: In the past, the degree to which two aircraft were separated for wake turbulence concerns was primarily based on aircraft weight. The FAA has replaced that model at numerous airports in the past few years with newly approved wake turbulence categories that group aircraft more optimally based on their wake turbulence characteristics. Implementation of these standards can uniquely address the needs of a given airport to increase site-specific benefits by developing unique wake categories based on the local fleet mix. This enhancement has demonstrated improvements in both arrivals and departures, reduced taxi times and saved fuel. These changes have also resulted in added capacity without the construction of any new runways or investment in new automation systems. 

NextGen Related Modernization Activities

Radar Modernization / Spectrum:  Spectrum holds tremendous value, both in terms of Federal Agency mission value and monetary value.  FAA has initiated a Spectrum Efficient National Surveillance Radar (SENSR) program with the Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Commerce's (DOC) National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to determine the feasibility of reallocating Federal-Use Radio Frequency (RF) radar spectrum to either Non-Federal or Shared Federal-Use.  The spectrum would then be auctioned by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to industry, where 110% of the costs of the federal entities needed to free up the spectrum for an auction, would be reimbursed by the revenues generated.  Recent auctions for analogous spectrum have generated tens of billions of dollars, and auction proceeds could provide the necessary funding to update aging surveillance systems such as radars, and associated facilities and support infrastructure (e.g. power distribution, telecommunications, etc.).

Our nation's long-range and short-range aircraft surveillance radar systems (approximately 500) have been deployed for decades and have reached or exceeded their predicted service life.  These ground based radar systems are required to ensure the safety, security, and efficiency of the NAS providing a supplemental surveillance capability to accommodate, among other things, GPS outages and non-cooperative targets.  While the long-range radars primarily fulfill defense and homeland security missions, all of these systems are owned, operated, and maintained by the FAA. The frequency allocation for these systems is also assigned to the FAA by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and independent Federal regulatory body. Over the last seven years, the FAA has conducted research and development support of a more efficient radar replacement system. As part of this effort, the FAA in consultation with its interagency partners have considered the possible replacement of long-range air surveillance systems and the potential for combination with short-range air surveillance and weather radar capabilities. The FAA also worked with the Department of Defense to determine that the best spectrum to make available is estimated to be worth several billions of dollars and could provide access for wireless broadband over a significant portion of the U.S. landmass.

A Spectrum Pipeline Plan, as required by the Spectrum Pipeline Act of 2015, is in the process of being formally submitted to the Technical Panel consisting of representatives from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), FCC and Office of Management and Budget (OMB). If approved, it will go to Congress to secure pre-funding to perform concept development, initial investment analysis, and acquisition activities with the FAA as the lead organization working with DOD, DHS and NOAA.  An implementation decision is planned for 2021, with a production decision planned for 2024 in concert with a requirement in the Spectrum Pipeline Act of 2015 to auction 30 MHz of spectrum that same year.  The efforts associated with spectrum in this section are not NextGen activities, but are related to NAS modernization and thus listed here.

En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM):  ERAM is a major nationwide infrastructure upgrade that was not funded by NextGen, but is foundational to the implementation of modernized NextGen capabilities. Instead of 20 separate systems, we now have a single system in 20 enroute centers that can fully support new NextGen capabilities. ERAM will increase air traffic flow, allow air traffic controllers to handle traffic in greater geographic areas, and set the stage for more efficient flights brought about by Data Comm.

Terminal Automation Modernization and Replacement (TAMR):  We are well on our way to completing the nationwide automation upgrade of the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS) which is used in the terminal environment.  Just like ERAM, STARS is not a NextGen funded program that is foundational to enabling full usage of NextGen capabilities. STARS has a separation efficiency tool, and an aid that allows controllers to more precisely manage separation between approaching aircraft which includes reduced wake separation.

SUBMITTED BY:          Federal Aviation Administration             

LAST UPDATED:         October 27, 2016

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)


The proliferation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in the National Airspace System in recent years has been extraordinary and is unprecedented. Congress is focused on UAS matters, has recently legislated on the topic and is expected to again in the near future. The applications of both commercial and "hobbyist" UAS, or "drones", are numerous, as are the concerns and interests of the various stakeholders. The FAA is managing these new entrants through our activities to further UAS integration into the nation's airspace, which includes developing new regulations, engaging UAS stakeholders through the formation of the Drone Advisory Committee (DAC), and evaluating UAS detection technology in support of UAS mitigation interests within the safety and security purview of the U.S. Government. The Defense Department and other Federal agencies, including the Federal Communications Commission, are also actively engaged in UAS integration and management efforts.

Action Needed

The new Administration will have an opportunity to shape the dialogue with the broad UAS stakeholder community at the second annual UAS symposium, scheduled in late March 2017.  Developing a framework for more advanced UAS operations, such as operations out of line-of-sight in populated environments, will require development of additional concepts and strategies, in addition to coordination with the public and standards and procedures development.

In addition, the new Administration will need to work with Congress and the FAA's stakeholders to develop broadly supported proposals that provide the FAA budget stability, predictability, and flexibility.


UAS Integration

The rapid proliferation of UAS in recent years has exceeded all expectations. While the FAA has been working on integration plans for UAS for several years, initial efforts focused on larger UAS operating at high altitudes. However, small UAS have begun to dominate the technological and consumer markets. The relatively low cost of the technology has allowed for thousands of new operators to enter the aviation community. In 2012, Congress passed an FAA authorization through FY15, P.L. 112-95, which tasked the FAA with integrating UAS into the nation's airspace.  Given the current and anticipated rate of growth in the UAS sector, the FAA will need to ensure that resources are adequate to successfully execute all the activities required to safely and efficiently integrate UAS operations. 

Because they are inherently different from manned aircraft, the integration of UAS into the nation's airspace is challenging for both the FAA and the aviation community. Numerous obstacles exist to the integration process, including: ensuring that new operators, who are often unfamiliar with the aerospace system, are properly vetted and educated about their responsibilities; and developing solutions to the technological hurdles to UAS integration, including detect-and-avoid, command-and-control, and spectrum management.

Section 333 of P.L. 112-95 provides the FAA the authority to authorize commercial UAS operations, including real estate photography, precision agriculture, and infrastructure inspection, among others, without having to comply with all pre-existing rules that were developed principally for manned aviation operations. FAA is applying this authority as flexibly as possible, in regulatory initiatives and otherwise. Over 5,500 operators have received this authorization to date. Additionally, the FAA had also issued over 900 Certificates of Waiver or Authorization, allowing federal, state, and local governments, law enforcement agencies, and public universities to perform numerous tasks with UAS, including search-and-rescue, border patrol, and research.

Much of the Section 333 exemption process was rendered obsolete when the FAA issued the "small UAS rule" (part 107), effective August 29, 2016. The new rule enables the majority of low-risk UAS operations that were previously only permitted on a case-by-case basis (under Section 333 exemptions). Now, many of these operations are considered routine and may be conducted under generally applicable rules, thereby streamlining the public's ability to use small UAS. This is the first significant regulatory step to enable lower risk and less complex UAS operations to take place under clearly defined rules created just for the UAS community. The FAA's next rulemaking initiative, scheduled to occur over FY 17 and into FY 18, will focus on enabling routine "operations over people," beyond the visual line-of-sight of the operator, and nighttime operations.  After that, the Agency will focus on facilitating non-segregated operations and unmanned cargo/passenger operations.

Several aspects of UAS integration require inter-agency coordination and collaboration, and there are a number of key venues at which this coordination occurs regularly. Notably, the UAS Executive Committee is a Federal interagency group that meets quarterly to address policy and procedures relating to access to the nation's airspace for Federal Agencies operating UAS. Additionally, the FAA and NASA Research Transition Team supports NASA's UAS Traffic Management research concept exploring policy and procedures needed for safe and efficient low-altitude UAS operations for UAS that operate outside of the Air Traffic Management System. This team is required to submit a research plan to Congress in January 2017. International coordination of some key standards and procedures may also be necessary for more advanced operations of UAS.

Drone Advisory Committee (DAC)

In May 2016, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta announced the establishment of a standing UAS advisory committee, referred to as the Drone Advisory Committee (DAC). This Committee's purpose is to provide the UAS stakeholder community with an ongoing opportunity to engage and advise the FAA on UAS integration activities.

The DAC is chaired by Brian Krzanich, CEO of Intel, and comprised of 35 representatives from the UAS community of interest, including manufacturers, operators, retailers, and innovators, as well as traditional aviation stakeholders such as American Airlines, the Airline Operators and Pilots Association (AOPA), and Helicopter Association International (HAI). The goal of the DAC is to ensure that the FAA has a consistent and regular body of stakeholders providing insight into the rapidly-changing industry, ensuring that the FAA is best able to prioritize its integration efforts.

Counter UAS

In response to increasing reports of UAS sightings by manned aviation pilots in flight, the FAA announced a research agreement with CACI International Inc. to evaluate how the company's technology could help detect UAS in the vicinity of airports. The CACI UAS detection system was installed and tested at Atlantic City International Airport (ACY) in January and February 2016. 

To support this effort, the FAA formed the Interagency UAS Detection at Airports Strategy Working Group. The group's focus is the safety and security needs of airports threatened by errant or hostile UAS. The FAA and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) co-lead this Working Group, which includes the Department of Defense (DoD), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), U.S. Secret Service, Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Interior (DOI), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), NASA, and U.S. Capitol Police.

The FAA is currently working on a number of Congressional mandates related to Counter UAS issues. The FY 2016 Appropriations (P.L. 114-113) directs the FAA to:

  • Assess the feasibility of integrating proven UAS mitigation technology with airport operations to detect, identify and track both the UAS and operator.
  • Review techniques to defeat an errant or hostile UAS without causing any collateral damage to essential navigation systems, wireless communications, the general public, or airport operations.

Additionally, Section 2206 of the FAA's recent authorization extension, P.L. 114-190, directs the FAA to establish a pilot program for airspace hazard mitigation at airports and other critical infrastructure using UAS detection systems.

Future Funding Requirements

The Agency has developed an initial UAS Implementation Plan to track UAS integration activities across all FAA organizations and identify gaps and overlaps in those activities. In parallel, FAA executives are developing a budget estimate to support those integration activities.

P.L.114-190 includes 14 mandates related to safe UAS integration; however, FAA currently lacks the resources to execute the new requirements.

SUBMITTED BY:          Federal Aviation Administration             

LAST UPDATED:         October 26, 2016

Aviation Noise


The FAA is experiencing an increasing level of public debate, political interest, and litigation related to aircraft noise.  There are several reasons for this, including changes due to the introduction of Performance Based Navigation (which while improving safety and efficiency, concentrates noise over a smaller geographic area), an increase in flights, an increase in population around airports, and more flights occurring at night.  This has led to a growing amount of opposition to changes in aircraft procedures, which is hindering our ability to implement certain safety and efficiency projects associated with NextGen, the transformation of our air traffic system.

Action Needed

Due to heightened public and Congressional interest, the Administration may wish to become more familiar early in its term, with the latest aviation noise issues and FAA's broad and substantive efforts to address them described below.  One of the most significant efforts that will conclude within the first year of the Administration is a multi-year research project to update the scientific evidence on the relationship between aircraft noise exposure and its effects on communities around airports.  Local and federal stakeholders have been pressuring for this research, and its results could have implications on longstanding aviation noise policy. 


Although there has been a substantial reduction in the numbers of people exposed to significant levels of aircraft noise (based on the established Federal standard), over the past few years there has been a small, but steady increase in the number of people exposed to significant noise levels as well as a substantial increase in the number of people who are filing complaints about aircraft operations. 

The FAA actively promotes three broad strategies to manage aviation noise:

  • Reduction of noise at its source, through quieter aircraft engines and/or operational modifications.   
  • Noise Compatibility Planning, which is a structured approach to enable airports, airlines and other user groups, the FAA, and neighboring communities to reduce the number of people exposed to significant noise.
  • Federally funded noise mitigation programs, which primarily include property acquisition and sound insulation for eligible homes, schools, and other noise-sensitive facilities such as healthcare facilities and houses of worship.

In addition, there are several associated issues and initiatives to be aware of:

  • Performance Based Navigation (PBN): The introduction of Performance Based Navigation as part of the FAA's ongoing air traffic system transformation, NextGen, has increased community concerns about aircraft noise. The goal of PBN is to create more efficient flight paths for GPS enabled aircraft.  PBN tends to reduce the geographical area the flight paths cover, thus concentrating noise over a smaller area. This results in a reduction in the overall number of people exposed to aircraft noise, but it may also result in some communities experiencing more frequent noise from concentrated operations.  Second, as FAA implements PBN and redesigns airspace for safety and efficiency it utilizes GPS and does not rely on ground based navigation aids for flight paths.  This can shift flight paths and result in different communities around airports experiencing greater aviation noise, even if it is not considered to be significant by current FAA policy. This has led the public, elected officials, and Congress to express to FAA their concerns with noise and their desire for the FAA to undo or reconsider implemented operational changes.
  • Community Outreach and Involvement: To address community concerns about noise such as those associated with PBN, FAA has conducted extensive outreach through airport community working groups, symposiums and conferences, meetings with elected officials, community leaders, Congressional briefings, and social media. The FAA is committed to improving outreach to communities on actions that may affect them. FAA published an updated Community Involvement Manual in FY2016, and created community involvement training for FAA employees. FAA will continue to expand this work by creating a tool kit that includes checklists, templates, and examples of best practices, as well as developing organization-specific guidance.  This effort is critical to ensuring the success of NextGen initiatives, such as PBN.
  • Noise Complaint Initiative: In response to the increase in noise complaints to the agency, FAA has also launched the Noise Complaint Initiative. The goal of this initiative was to identify how the FAA can more efficiently and effectively respond to and address noise complaints in a clear and consistent manner that is responsive to the public and applies the best use of FAA resources. The recommendations are currently being implemented.
  • Environmental Justice: The FAA has always been committed to ensuring that impacts to environmental justice communities (i.e., low income and minority populations as defined by Executive Order 12898 on Environmental Justice) are taken into consideration with FAA actions. In an effort to enhance that commitment, we created an analytical capability to help identify where potential low income or minority populations exist, and additional steps that can be taken to ensure appropriate outreach is completed and that the concerns from these populations are better understood in the design of new procedures.
  • Research on Significant Threshold: This is the multi-year research effort noted above to update the scientific evidence of the relationship between aircraft noise exposure and its effects on communities around airports. The research involves conducting a survey with residents living around 20 selected U.S. airports. This is the most comprehensive study using a single noise survey ever undertaken in the United States. The survey and the related analysis should be completed in early 2017.  At that time, FAA will determine what additional steps may be appropriate given the outcome of the research, in consultation with other Federal agencies and interested stakeholders that will include a public notice and comment process.
  • Noise Research Roadmap: The airport noise survey described above is part of FAA's robust noise research roadmap, which also includes research to improve noise modeling and ensure we accurately quantify noise impacts, research on noise mitigation, as well as research on noise of emerging technologies into the national airspace system, such as drones and supersonic aircraft.  The FAA coordinates and collaborates with a number of Federal agencies, especially the Department of Defense and NASA, on some of the noise research.  Additionally, FAA fosters acceleration of low noise technologies into aircraft as a part of its CLEEN program.
  • Helicopter Noise: Helicopter noise is an ongoing concern particularly in the New York City area and the Los Angeles basin. In response to residents' concerns with helicopter noise in New York, FAA implemented a mandatory North Shore Helicopter Route on July 6, 2012. The current rule expires in August 2020 and will provide FAA time to evaluate whether the rule should be permanent. The FAA also has work ongoing in the Los Angeles basin.  The FAA has participated in public meetings since 2013 with numerous stakeholders. As of summer 2016, the Congressional representatives were satisfied with the current voluntary nature of the initiatives and FAA participation in stakeholder meetings in the Los Angeles basin.
  • FAA Authority regarding Noise: While the FAA has the authority to alter flight procedures based on noise, the Agency historically has not exercised that authority to prohibit aircraft flights over a particular area unless the operation is unsafe, or the aircraft is operated in a manner inconsistent with FAA regulations. This is because flight procedure changes can result in shifting of aircraft noise from one community to another. Any work regarding the movement of procedures is done for safety and efficiency reasons (including enhancing controller ability to monitor traffic).
  • Noise Compatibility Planning: In response to a Congressional mandate, the FAA established noise compatibility regulations (Part 150), which adopted the 65 decibel Day-Night Average Sound Level standard for land use compatibility.   Part 150 also established a voluntary program for airports, which provides a structured approach for airport operators, airlines, pilots, neighboring communities, and the FAA to work together to reduce the number of people who live in significantly noise-impacted areas. Over the years, this program has actively served operators of public use airports, including heliports, all eligible to participate. 
  • Evaluating Proposed Noise-Based Access Restrictions:  In the early 1990's, U.S. airlines incurred significant costs in order to phase out older, noisier aircraft and replace their fleets with newer, quieter aircraft. In return, Congress agreed to limit the ability of airports to impose further noise-based restrictions, unless all of the airlines agree or the FAA approves the proposed restriction based on specific criteria set forth in law, codified in Part 161. In the 26 years since the statutory provision was established, only three airports have attempted to establish noise-based access restrictions, and the FAA has denied all three based on the criteria in the law. 

In summary, noise remains a predominant aviation environmental concern of the public.  The challenges of aviation noise must be successfully managed and mitigated for NextGen to realize its full potential and for the U.S. to meet the aviation transportation needs of the 21st century.

SUBMITTED BY:          Federal Aviation Administration             

LAST UPDATED:         October 26, 2016

Commercial Space Transportation


The U.S. commercial space transportation sector is experiencing a period of dramatic growth, diversification of activities, and heightened popularity and public interest.  Given the industry's ability to innovate quickly, the FAA must seek to keep pace and to ensure that our regulatory and operational regimes do not adversely impact public safety or the efficiency of the National Airspace System (NAS), or hamper future growth. This will require both resources and creative approaches to managing within the existing Congressional limitations on our authority. 

Action Needed

Working with the new Administration, some near-term actions for the FAA include:

  • Assessing the viability of a space situational awareness data (SSA) /space traffic management (STM) pilot program to investigate a transition of non-national security, safety-related responsibilities to FAA;   
  • Determining whether to pursue Congressional engagement to consolidate hybrid launch vehicle oversight under Title 51; and
  • Working with Congress and the FAA's stakeholders to develop broadly supported proposals that provide the FAA budget stability, predictability, and flexibility. 


Sparked in large part by national policies that facilitate commercial sector growth, including the increased use of commercial services to support federal agency mission needs, and by rapid innovation in the sector, the U.S. commercial space launch industry has emerged as a major player in the international marketplace.  The sector is comprised of U.S. private industry, and non-federal US entities such as state and local municipalities that carry out space activities and operations.

The U.S. commercial launch industry has won approximately half of the future, worldwide launch orders for commercial large geostationary satellite deployments since 2013.  This resurgence in U.S. commercial large payload launches is bolstered by National Aeronautics and Space Administration's continued reliance on commercial launch providers for servicing the International Space Station (ISS).  Other departments and agencies, such as Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, are also planning to use commercial providers for their launch services, and this trend is expected to grow in the coming years.  The "miniaturization of space" is also driving growth as high-performance, low-cost electronics have made "cube-sats" and "small-sats" a reality.  Strong demand for suborbital space flight, for applications ranging from research and development to space tourism, is also leading to new products and operational concepts.

The FAA regulates commercial space launch and reentry operations, and launch and reentry site operations, to protect the public, property, and the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States. The scope of this authority does not include on-orbit operations in space, nor does it include, except in limited circumstances, the protection of occupants on board commercial space transportation vehicles.  Further, the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation encourages, facilitates, and promotes U.S. commercial space transportation to meet national space related policy objectives and goals. 

The following represents the FAA's top focus areas relating to current and possible future oversight of the US commercial space sector. 

Vehicle Operations/Safety:  Commercial launch vehicle and reentry vehicle operations are increasing in terms of complexity, diversity, and frequency, creating dramatic and continued growth in demand for FAA licensing and permitting services and the resulting safety oversight. Various companies, like SpaceX and Blue Origin, have developed, flown, and successfully landed the first stages of their respective launch vehicles.  While such a capability holds the potential of lowering the cost of launch operations, it poses new challenges the FAA must address to ensure that the U.S. public safety record for commercial launch and reentry is maintained.  Additionally, a number of companies are developing non-traditional methods of transporting cargo and people into space.  Companies such as Virgin Galactic and XCOR Aerospace are developing rocket powered spaceplanes to conduct suborbital space tourism flights, while another company, World View Enterprises, is developing a space rated capsule that will be powered to the edge of space by a balloon. 

NAS Integration of Commercial Space Transportation Operations:  The FAA is continually improving airspace integration processes, practices and tools to ensure the rapidly growing commercial space industry is able to access the NAS without causing unnecessary impacts to other NAS users. Both space and aviation operators face significant cost risks if they are unable to use the NAS as they expect.  In response to this challenge, the agency is continuing to refine the planning and real-time monitoring for airspace management of orbital launch and reentry operations.  These efforts remain almost entirely manual, and not supported by modern situational awareness and decision support tools for air traffic controllers. 

To address this issue, the FAA initiated a development program to integrate real-time space vehicle operational data and space-related safety analysis tools with air traffic control automation and decision support tools.  This program is known as the "Space Data Integrator" and is currently undergoing review and testing as part of the FAA's acquisition management process.  In addition, the FAA works collaboratively with the Department of Defense and others to fairly accommodate commercial space operations in the NAS based on safety and efficiency.  Normal procedures segregate commercial space operations from other NAS users, with future goals of integrating selected commercial space operations with traditional NAS users. 

In addition to NAS utilization needs, there is increasing desire from state and local authorities for licensed spaceports to drive economic development in their jurisdictions.  There are currently ten licensed commercial spaceports in the US, with approximately an equal number in some phase of potential future development.  Some existing and proposed spaceports are co-located with airports, or near major airports, which has potential implications for safety, capacity, and utility both in the airspace and on the surface.  This in turn requires close coordination throughout the FAA. 

While none of these dual-use sites have yet hosted a launch or reentry, the agency must ensure that it has in place the appropriate policies, procedures, and regulations in preparation for that eventual reality.  Further, the FAA establishes agreements with spaceport proponents to enable FAA licensing of the spaceport, as well as with space vehicle operators to enable space launch/reentry operations in the NAS.  The push for spaceports may mask, however, what could be a more significant shift in operations and FAA oversight as operators move away from Federal ranges by developing exclusive use sites for their launches.  This will increase the demands on FAA, since we will not be able to take advantage of Federal range oversight provided by the Air Force or NASA in areas like ground safety. Without this burden sharing, the FAA will be required to pick up the cost of this oversight alone.

Space Situational Awareness/Orbital Space Traffic Management:  Space traffic coordination services involve distributing critical space situational awareness (SSA) data, including position and trajectory data of satellites and space debris, to space operators, regulators, and other stakeholders in order to provide orbital safety and to ensure the preservation of the space environment.  This includes safety during launch, suborbital, orbital, and reentry operations.  DoD currently provides this advisory service.  There are ongoing discussions on the feasibility of the FAA to take on this safety mission.  New authorities and resources would be required for the FAA to perform this activity, and additional staff and funding would be required to standup the capability and sustain year-to-year operations.

Mission Authorization/In-Space Operations:  As noted previously, the FAA's authority does not include commercial operations in orbit and beyond.  Increasingly, however, industry is pursuing commercial applications for in-space operations, such as commercial space stations, satellite servicing, and exploration and resource extraction.  There is a mutual interest for obtaining U.S. government authorization of these missions since Article VI of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 requires nations to provide authorization and continuing supervision of the in-space activities of their non-governmental entities.  A mission authorization from a U.S. regulatory agency would ensure the U.S. meets its treaty obligations while providing the regulatory certainty that is critical for companies making these investments. 

On April 4, 2016, the White House recommended to Congress that the FAA take on this new regulatory role, in addition to its current responsibilities. In concept, the mission authorization could be modeled on the FAA's existing payload and policy review processes that review national security and foreign policy considerations.  The new authority would allow FAA to impose specific conditions necessary to provide continuing supervision.  The FAA believes that a small number of additional staff may be required to implement this additional authority. 

Oversight of Hybrid Launch Vehicle Operations:  The FAA is increasingly challenged to regulate hybrid vehicle operations.  Hybrid vehicles are vehicles that have characteristics of both aircraft and launch vehicles.  An example is Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo / SpaceShipTwo, where the WhiteKnight is a jet powered aircraft that is mated with the rocket propelled SpaceShipTwo vehicle to form the all up launch system. Hybrid vehicle operators that use a carrier aircraft, like Virgin's WhiteKnight aircraft, plan to conduct "non-launch" flight operations with the carrier aircraft when it is not launching a rocket. Currently, an operator must seek and obtain approval in accordance with Title 49 from the FAA Aviation Safety Office (AVS) to conduct these "non-launch" operations, while a launch license from AST in accordance with Title 51 must be obtained when the vehicle is being used for "launch".  As a result, hybrid vehicle operators are burdened by having to be responsive to two different regulatory regimes, depending on the type of operation they conducts for a single vehicle configuration.

To fulfill FAA's current responsibilities, the FAA currently relies on general appropriations for new safety analysis methods and tools, airspace integration improvements, and emerging automated flight safety systems analyses, and vehicle technologies and vulnerabilities, in a high-paced, repetitive use environment. However, continued growth in the complexity and diversity of space vehicles will place tight constraints on the ability of the FAA to keep pace with the authorized workload.  Neither the FY17 President's budget nor the likely FY17 funding outcome for FAA and other Federal agencies provides additional resources to implement any of the additional authorities under consideration.

SUBMITTED BY:          Federal Aviation Administration             

LAST UPDATED:         October 26, 2016

Status of the Airport and Airways Trust Fund (AATF)


The FAA is funded primarily by the Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF), which receives revenues from a series of excise taxes paid by users of the National Airspace System (NAS). 

Action Needed

None – Information Only


  • The FAA is funded primarily by the Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF), which receives revenues from a series of excise taxes paid by users of the NAS—and by the General Fund.  The Airport and Airway Revenue Act of 1970 created the AATF to provide a dedicated source of capital funding for the aviation system independent of the General Fund.  Four decades later, the same basic framework of taxes remains the principal source of income for the AATF.  Some of the tax structure and the rates charged, however, have evolved.
  • Congress appropriates funding from the AATF for FAA's capital accounts, including:
    • The Facilities and Equipment account (F&E) that funds technological improvements and infrastructure maintenance, sustainment, and upgrades to the air traffic control system;
    • The Research, Engineering, and Development account (RE&D) that funds research on aviation safety, mobility, and environment issues; and
    • The Airport Improvement Program (AIP) that provides grants for construction and safety projects at airports.
  • Congress also appropriates funds from the AATF a portion of the Operations account, which varies from year to year, depending on the projected revenue into the fund.  The remaining portion of FAA's Operations account is funded through the General Fund.
  • The AATF had a cash balance of $13.6 billion and an uncommitted balance of $4.5 billion at the end of FY 2016.  The Treasury Department is projecting FY 2017 aviation excise tax revenues of $14.8 billion. (The AATF also receives interest revenue.)   By the end of FY 2017, the cash balance is projected to be $14.0 billion and the uncommitted balance $5.2 billion.
  • The cash balance reflects the total amount of cash in the fund at any given time.  The uncommitted balance takes into account the amount needed to cover commitments that have already been made.  As such, the uncommitted balance is generally used as an estimate of available resources for new commitments.
  • Current cash balance levels are regarded as a healthy historic norm, with an uncommitted balance of $1 billion regarded as the minimum "safety net" to ensure future AATF solvency. 

Airport and Airway Trust Fund (Dollars in Millions) 

Airport and Airway Trust Fund (Dollars in Millions) 
 FY 2015FY 2016FY 2017
 Actual ActualForecast
Tax Revenue$14,268$14,406$14,818
Interest Revenue$274$261$290
Total Trust Fund Revenue$14,542$14,667$15,108
Cash Balance$14,072$13,635$13,978
Uncommitted Balance$5,622$4,527$5,173
BudgetFY 2015FY 2016FY 2017
Trust Fund Share$14,702$14,293$14,281
General Fund Share$1,146$1,988$1,969
Trust Fund Percent92.8%87.8%87.9%
General Fund Percent7.2%12.2%12.1%

 *Based on the full-year (annualized) amount of the FY 2017 Continuing Resolution through April 28 (P.L. 114-254)

  • The FAA requires both resources in the Trust Fund and authority to spend from it.  Aviation excise taxes are collected by the Department of Treasury.
  • In FY 2016, aviation excise tax revenues were $14.4 billion. The largest source of aviation excise tax revenues is from taxes on transportation of passengers.  Taxes from transportation of passengers include the domestic passenger ticket tax, domestic flight segment fees, and taxes on mileage awards (frequent flyer tax).  In recent years, airlines have unbundled key elements of the product they offer, introducing separate charges for checked baggage and in-flight food, services that were previously included in the ticket price. Generally, all mandatory charges necessary to transport passengers are included in the tax base but fees for optional services such as checked baggage and in-flight food are not.  The next largest tax revenue source is the Use of International Air Facilities, i.e., the international passenger arrival and departure taxes.
  • The sources of tax revenues in the AATF broken down, in millions of dollars, is as follows:

FY 2016 Total AATF tax revenue $14,406 (dollars in millions)


FY 2016 Total AATF tax revenue $14,406 (dollars in millions)
Passenger Ticket Tax Rate (domestic)7.50%
Flight Segment Tax (domestic) (indexed for inflation)$4.10
Frequent Flyer Tax 7.50%
International Departure Tax (indexed for inflation)$18.00
International Arrival Tax (indexed for inflation)$18.00
Continental U.S. to Alaska and Hawaii Tax (indexed for inflation)$9.00
Cargo Waybill Tax (domestic)6.25%
Commercial fuel Tax per gallon (domestic)4.3¢
Non-commercial Jet Fuel Tax per gallon (domestic)21.8¢
Non-commercial Aviation Gasoline Tax per gallon (domestic)19.3¢
Surcharge on fuel used in aircraft used in a fractional ownership program – per gallon  (domestic)14.1¢ per gallon


SUBMITTED BY:          Federal Aviation Administration

LAST UPDATED:          January 6, 2017

FAA Budget


FAA requires funding to effectively operate our air traffic control system, build on our investments in NextGen, and efficiently recapitalize our aging facilities while simultaneously ensuring that our nation continues to maintain the safest and most efficient aerospace system today and in the future.

For FY 2016, FAA's total appropriation was $16,281 million, an increase of $445 million above the requested level and $433 million above the FY 2015 enacted level.  The increase was limited to the airport improvement programs. FAA's FY 2017 budget request of $15.9 billion was submitted to Congress on February 9, 2016.  The requested funding levels are commensurate with those enacted for FY 2016, which allow FAA to cover the cost of its operations and increase investment in its facilities and equipment. Maintaining these funding levels for FY 2017 will allow FAA to continue making critical investments in its infrastructure needs while deploying key NextGen benefits to our stakeholders and upholding vital safety programs.

Action Needed

The new Administration will need to work with Congress and the FAA's stakeholders to develop broadly supported proposals that provide the FAA budget stability, predictability, and flexibility.  With the current FAA authorization expiring in a matter of months, working with Congress to integrate new priorities with existing imperatives for safety and efficiency is critical.


  • FY 2017 

    • FAA submitted its $15.9 billion budget request to Congress on February 9, 2016.
    • Operations: $10.0 billion, an increase of 1 percent above the FY 2016 enacted level to accommodate uncontrollable pay and inflationary increases, transition from F&E of maintenance costs for new equipment, and discretionary increases. Offsetting these increases are $47 million in cost savings achieved through the Contract Weather program, Lean Maintenance, and other administrative efficiencies.
    • Facilities & Equipment (F&E): $2.8 billion to enable FAA to meet the challenge of both maintaining the capacity and safety of the current National Airspace while continuing its comprehensive system modernization and transformation. This includes $877 million for NextGen capital investments, and $2.0 billion to sustain current systems.
    • Research, Engineering & Development (RE&D): $167.5 million to support the continuation of work in both NextGen and other research areas. This is an increase of 0.9 percent over the FY 2016 enacted level.
    • Grants-in-Aid for Airports (AIP): $2.9 billion obligation limitation for AIP, a decrease of $450 million from the FY 2016 enacted level. The budget focuses Federal grants to support smaller commercial and general aviation airports that do not have access to additional revenue or other outside sources of capital. At the same time, the budget proposes to increase the non-Federal Passenger Facility Charge from $4.50 to $8.00, thereby giving airports greater flexibility to generate their own revenue.
    • The entire FY 2017 NextGen portfolio totals $1 billion distributed among F&E programs ($877 million), Research, Engineering & Development programs ($63 million) and Operations activities ($60 million). This investment portfolio reflects an increase of $20 million over FY 16 enacted levels.
    • On May 19, 2016 the full Senate passed its version of the FY 2017 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies appropriations bill and accompanying Report.  The Senate bill provides FAA with a total of $16,412.4 million, an increase of $512.5 million above the total requested level and $131.6 million above the FY 2016 enacted level.
    • This reflects a significant increase above request for Airport Grants funding, and modest increases for Operations and RE&D. F&E is funded at the requested level.
    • The bill includes six new General Provisions dealing with AIP formulas and project costs, Passenger Facility Charges, alternative jet fuel research, UAS (drone) test sites, and Contract Towers.
    • On May 24 the House Appropriations Committee approved by voice vote its version of the FY 2017 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies appropriations bill and accompanying Report.
    • Overall, the FAA funding is $16.3 billion, $450M above request due to restoral of AIP grant funding to recent enacted levels. The Operations, F&E, and RE&D accounts are all funded at the request level but with some adjustments within each account.
    • No floor action on the House bill has been taken.
    • The requested funding levels and comparisons to the House and Senate bills for each account are summarized below:
      • Neither the FY17 President's budget nor the likely FY17 funding outcome for FAA and other federal agencies provide additional resources to execute the new requirements from P.L. 114-190 for UAS activities.
      • Given the commercial space transportation industry's ability to innovate quickly, the FAA must seek to keep pace and to ensure that our regulatory and operational regimes do not adversely impact public safety or the efficiency of the NAS, or hamper future growth.  This will require budgetary resources. 
      • Once the Facility Consolidation and Realignment recommendations are approved for implementation, funding will be required to cover transition planning, equipment and facility modernization, and employee relocation costs.
      • The National Airspace System (NAS) has many facilities and pieces of equipment that are beyond their expected service life, and sufficient and dependable funding is required if the sustainment priorities identified are to be enacted in a meaningful way. 
      • Congress had initially planned to complete FY 2017 appropriations work in a "lame duck" session in December. However, the incoming administration requested that this activity be postponed until after the inauguration, providing the opportunity for them to participate in the process. Congress subsequently passed a new CR bill extending funding for most government agencies through April 28.
        • Section 181 of the CR bill contains two "anomaly" provisions that allow FAA funding levels to differ from those automatically calculated by the CR. The first (provision a) authorizes the FAA Operations account to receive apportionments above the CR calculated level in order to "avoid disruption of continuing projects or activities." This, however, does not increase the total amount available for Operations on an annual basis. So any additional funding apportioned during the CR would require either lower spending later in the fiscal year or subsequent legislation that would increase the total funding level.
          • The second (provision b) increases the base rate for Facilities & Equipment Activity 5 funding to $479.4 million, an increase of $9.4 million over the FY 2016 level. These funds are transferred from the amount available for Activities 1-4.
  • Beyond FY 201Progress on FY 2017 appropriations bills, including the Transportation and Housing bill (THUD) that funds FAA, stalled in Congress over the summer.  In late September, Congress therefore enacted a bill that includes a Continuing Resolution (CR) funding most government agencies (including FAA) through December 9.

SUBMITTED BY:    Federal Aviation Administration

LAST UPDATED:   January 6, 2017

National Airspace System (NAS) Infrastructure


The United States has the largest, busiest, most complex airspace system in the world.    Operating the National Airspace System (NAS) requires a vast and unique network of facilities and communication, navigation, and surveillance equipment throughout the United States for the FAA to manage air traffic through all phases of flight.  Ensuring that this service to the public continues 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, under a wide-ranging set of circumstances including unanticipated system failures, in the face of aging infrastructure and obsolescent technologies, requires significant efforts and resources. The FAA seeks sufficient and predictable funding to sustain its facilities, equipment and associated infrastructure in good condition.  Continuing resolutions and short-term reauthorizations impede long-term planning for sustainment and recapitalization of aging facilities and equipment. As a result, the NAS has many facilities and pieces of equipment that are beyond their expected service life.

In addition to the funding challenge, efforts to sustain and modernize the infrastructure must be integrated with efforts to realign and consolidate facilities and services, which requires consensus from an extensive set of stakeholders across the nation. 

Action Needed

The new Administration will need to work with Congress and the FAA's stakeholders to develop broadly supported proposals that provide the FAA budget stability, predictability, and flexibility, as well as sufficient funding to sustain the condition of its facilities, equipment, and associated infrastructure, enable infrastructure modernization, and address obsolescent technology challenges.  Working with Congress on FAA authorization and appropriations to integrate new priorities, including facility consolidation and realignment, with existing imperatives for safety and efficiency is critical.



The FAA has over 12,000 facilities with surveillance, navigation, communication, weather, and automation systems, as well as building electrical/mechanical equipment, and underground power cables that comprise the NAS.

As a result of insufficient and often unpredictable funding, sustainment projects have often been delayed or cancelled, leading to facilities and infrastructure components exceeding their lifecycles. Aging and obsolete equipment leads to higher sustainment costs both in the short-term and the long-term.  The FAA must streamline the NAS facilities required to provide air traffic control and navigation services as well as find innovative interim maintenance solutions with the beyond service life and obsolescence challenges.  The Technical Operations Concept of Operations (ConOps), 2015 Edition promotes a resilient, streamlined, and cost effective NAS and ensures user demand for NAS services and system redundancy are considered in the sustainment process. The FAA prioritizes capital investment and operations funded infrastructure sustainment projects.  NAS system modifications are performed in accordance with FAA configuration management, safety risk management, and, environmental, occupational, safety, and health processes. However, sufficient and dependable funding is required if the sustainment priorities identified by this process are to be enacted in a meaningful way.

Contingency, Continuity, and Resiliency

The FAA is working on improving its ability of the NAS to respond to a loss of air traffic services, through the implementation and execution of mature Operational Contingency Plans, revision of FAA policy and operational procedures, and updating of the NAS infrastructure.   The FAA is also working to improve the resilience of NAS infrastructure to meet the agency's target levels of efficiency during system failure scenarios.

Three significant facility outage events that occurred in FY14 provided impetus to these efforts:

  • April 30 - Los Angeles (ZLA) Air Route Traffic Control Center experienced an ERAM failure.
  • May 13 - the Chicago Terminal RADAR Control (TRACON) (C90) experienced smoke in the control room.
  • September 26 - the Chicago (ZAU) Air Route Traffic Control Center experienced a fire that damaged FAA Telecommunications Infrastructure equipment causing a prolonged outage and the divestment of air space.

The FAA Administrator hence requested an evaluation of the Operational Contingency Plans and established new efficiency targets for reestablishing operations after a facility outage is declared at one of the 30 major airports, Tier I Terminal Radar Approach Control Facilities (facilities with more than 1% of total annual enplanements) and Air Route Traffic Control Centers.  An Operational Contingency & Continuity Office oversees the work to develop a governance structure to ensure integration of operational contingency and continuity across all lines of business within the FAA Air Traffic Organization. Specifically, this governance structure will oversee the implementation, tracking and reporting of mitigation activities from Corrective Action Plans.

In addition, the FAA is accelerating its efforts to reduce vulnerabilities, minimize consequences, identify and disrupt threats, and hasten response and recovery efforts for the NAS. The target objective is to achieve 90% of normal operations after an event within 24 hours at core airports, or 96 hours at Air Route Traffic Control Centers.  The resiliency assessment resulted in recommendations to improve system design and implementation, physical security, facility infrastructure, and cybersecurity.  A formal group has been established to coordinate the resiliency effort across FAA organizations.

Facility Consolidation and Realignment

Past efforts of the FAA to realign facilities and services have fared poorly due to varying political interests.  Differences in technical approaches and business case methodologies have presented additional challenges.  Section 804 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (P.L. 112-095) requires the FAA to develop facility realignment recommendations to support the transition to NextGen without adversely affecting safety.

The Section 804 process is time consuming and incremental and it will take many years to begin to address the aging facility infrastructure.  FAA and labor union leadership have chartered a collaborative workgroup to develop a repeatable and defensible technical approach to apply in developing recommendations for realigning Terminal Radar Approach Control facilities.

Currently, the FAA is planning to implement the first two recommendations which were submitted to Congress in the National Facilities Realignment and Consolidation Report, Part 1. The recommendations are to realign Cape TRACON (K90) operations to Boston TRACON (A90), and to formalize Abilene TRACON (ABI) configuration as a TRACAB.  

In addition, the FAA published the National Facilities Realignment and Consolidation Report, Part 2, in the Federal Register. The report includes recommendations for realigning eight TRACON facilities in Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. The FAA submitted this report, with comments, to Congress on November 15, 2016. Once these recommendations are approved for implementation, funding will be required to cover transition planning, equipment and facility modernization, and employee relocation costs. The workgroup is preparing to brief the Administrator on the National Facilities Realignment and Consolidation Report, Part 3, which contains recommendations for four TRACON facilities in Illinois and Washington State.


Major U.S. telecommunications carriers have stated their intention to discontinue services based on Time-Division Multiplexing (or TDM, a method of transmitting and receiving communication signals) as early as Calendar Year 2020.  Over 90 percent of the 23,000+ services obtained under the FAA Telecommunications Infrastructure contract are TDM-based to meet the interface requirements of systems that provide critical NAS services such as surveillance radar, air/ground voice, and interphone (ground/ground voice).  FAA Telecommunications Infrastructure makes extensive use of the infrastructure of commercial telecommunications carriers to reach more than 4,000 facilities operated by the FAA both within and outside the continental United States.  As these carriers phase out TDM-based infrastructure and migrate to Internet Protocol (IP)-based technology, the potential impacts to the FAA are significant because the majority of NAS services are dependent upon the precision timing, deterministic performance, and low latency of TDM-based services.

NAS systems that are still using TDM-based telecommunications services must modernize to use IP/Ethernet-based communications interfaces. A Capital Investment Plan funding request has been submitted for FY 2018 and beyond but only a fraction of the requested funding has been received.  For systems that are unable to modernize their communications interfaces within the required timeframe, the FAA must provide a TDM-to-IP conversion solution that can be implemented in locations where commercial carriers phase out TDM-based services.  Efforts are under way to qualify a NAS-compatible solution and they are expected to be completed within the next 4-6 months.  If insufficient resources are available to address this challenge, the majority of NAS services could be impacted including air/ground voice, ground/ground voice, surveillance, automation, weather, inter-facility data, and flight data.

SUBMITTED BY:          Federal Aviation Administration             

LAST UPDATED:         October 26, 2016

Airport Capital Funding (AIP and PFC)


Airport facilities require constant reinvestment to preserve safety, capacity, security, efficiency and environmental responsibility.  The Airport Improvement Program (AIP) and Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) program both provide crucial funding for capital projects at more than 3,300 U.S. airports.  AIP funds are obligated from the Airport and Airway Trust fund which is supported by aviation taxes (e.g., passenger ticket taxes and fuel taxes).  The AIP is currently authorized through FY-2017.  The PFC program does not involve Federal funds, but is administered by FAA, and therefore critical actions depend upon continued funding of the FAA    

Action Needed

The new Administration will need to work with Congress and the FAA's stakeholders to develop broadly supported proposals that provide the FAA budget stability, predictability, and flexibility.  If an increase in the current PFC level from the current maximum of $4.50 (as sought by the airport industry) is pursued, it would require a statutory change by Congress. In addition, the FAA Administrator and Associate Administrator for Airports will brief the Secretary on anticipated AIP Discretionary grants for FY-2017, and request concurrence with the plan.


There are more than 3,300 public-use airports in the United States, including more than 500 airports that support commercial airline service and another 2,800 general aviation airports that support flight training, emergency medical services and disaster response, law enforcement support, agricultural activities, and business/corporate activities. 

Two of the primary airport funding sources are AIP grants and PFC revenue. Use of AIP funds is restricted to the planning and development of public-use airports (such as airfield capital improvements), but in general may not be used for revenue producing or non-aviation purposes. While smaller airports are more dependent on AIP funding, airports of all sizes still rely heavily upon AIP and PFC.  Both programs help fund safety, capacity, security, planning, and environmental projects but are restricted in the types of projects they may support.  AIP has been funded at $3.35 billion each fiscal year since FY2012.

PFCs are federally authorized fees that can only be used for federally approved capital improvement projects and cannot be used for revenue producing projects.  PFC may fund gates and related facilities (capacity projects), and debt service and financing costs on bonds for PFC-eligible projects.  Airports must apply to the FAA for authority to collect PFCs for use on approved projects, and if approved by FAA, airlines are required to collect PFCs.  PFC funds are not Federal funds; rather, after FAA approval, the funds are collected from passengers by the airlines and then remitted to the airports to fund FAA-approved projects. The PFC program currently generates about $2.8 billion to $2.9 billion annually. 

Legislation in 2000 raised the PFC ceiling to $4.50, with an $18 limit on the total PFCs that a passenger can be charged per round trip.  A central legislative issue related to PFCs is whether to raise the $4.50 per emplaned passenger ceiling.  In general, airports argue for increasing the ceiling, whereas most air carriers and some passenger advocates oppose higher limits on PFCs.

The AIP and PFC programs are closely connected in several ways—including the fact that the 30 Large-hub and 31 Medium-hub airports are required to turn back part of their AIP entitlement funds if they choose to impose a PFC, and those returned funds help fund projects at smaller airports. 

The assessment of airport capital needs is fundamental to determining the appropriate federal support needed to foster a safe and efficient airport system.  By law, the FAA is required to publish a 5-year estimate of AIP eligible development every other year.  In September 2016, FAA submitted the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS) to Congress.  The FAA estimates that over the next 5 years (2017 to 2021), there will be a need of approximately $32.5 billion of AIP-eligible infrastructure projects, representing an average annual need of approximately $6.5 billion. 

About 62% of the planned capital need is at the 389 airports with scheduled airline service that serve a minimum of 10,000 passengers per year.  The improvements are focused on safety and standards, as well as increased airfield capacity and efficiency.  Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA), which is an airport trade association, also provides an estimate capital investment needs during the same five-year period. The 2015-2019 ACI-NA report estimates $75.7 billion in planned capital needs representing an average of approximately $15.1 billion annually.  A key distinction is that the ACI-NA estimates include many types of projects for which the FAA cannot provide funding, such as automobile parking structures, hangars, air cargo buildings, or revenue producing portions of large passenger terminal buildings.  Airports are increasingly looking to diversify their revenue sources, and so are pursuing capital projects for concessions, rental cars, and parking that will expand their revenue.

In its April 2015 report titled "Airport Finance - Information on Funding Sources and Planned Capital Development," the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that, "for fiscal years 2009 through 2013, airports had an average of $10 billion annually available for capital development from the following combined funding sources: airport-generated net income, AIP grants, PFC collections, capital contributions, and state grants.  Although the gross amount of funding received by airports was $13.3 billion, $3.3 billion from airport-generated net income and PFC collections was used to pay interest on debt, thus leaving $10 billion available for capital development. Of this $10 billion, the largest sources of available funding were airport-generated net income ($3.8 billion), AIP grants ($3.3 billion), and PFCs ($1.8 billion).  In addition to these sources of funding, some airport authorities and state or local governments also issue bonds to pay for capital development projects."  This indicates that airport-generated income and bonds supported by airport-generated income and PFCs are the two largest sources of funding, particularly for large airports.

GAO went further to state that "the total amounts as well as the shares of funding by source differ between larger and smaller airports. Of the annual average of $10 billion in funding available for capital projects, larger airports accounted for 66 percent ($6.6 billion), while smaller airports accounted for the other 34 percent ($3.4 billion)."  By contrast, GAO pointed out that larger airports are less dependent than smaller airports on AIP grants. 

For many airports, the needs have changed.  The changes in the airline industry (consolidation, up-gauging and schedule reduction) have resulted in more passengers being carried on fewer flights.  In some cases smaller communities are losing service, while the major hubs in other locations are growing. That means less need for new or expanded runways and taxiways in some locations, but greater need for newer and expanded gates, terminal and landside facilities–which have historically been more easily financed with PFC revenues, in part because PFC revenues can support long-term debt such as municipal bonds.  In the absence of a PFC increase (and with many airports' PFCs already heavily committed many years into the future), alternatives such as additional AIP Discretionary funding for terminal projects may be needed (which would require statutory changes).

SUBMITTED BY:   Federal Aviation Administration

LAST UPDATED:    January 9, 2017

State and Local Use of Aviation Fuel Tax Revenues


The FAA became aware that state and local sales taxes levied on aviation fuel in the state of Georgia were being used allegedly for non-aeronautical purposes.  The FAA also learned of similar tax issues in Michigan, Nebraska, and Colorado, and Alaska.  In one example, more than $66 million dollars of aviation fuel tax revenue collected from an airline was used to support local non-airport programs statewide in 2012.  Within the past few years, Congress has expressed interest in the FAA enhancing its investigations of alleged revenue diversion.

On November 7, 2014, the FAA issued a clarification to its Policy Concerning the Use of Airport Revenues; Proceeds from Taxes on Aviation Fuel in the Federal Register (Amendment).  The Amendment became effective on December 8, 2014.  State and local governments were required to submit an Action Plan by December 8, 2015, to initiate the process to amend any state law and local ordinance to comply with federal law on the use of aviation fuel taxes. The Action Plan permitted a reasonable transition period, not to exceed three years with a deadline that all state and local jurisdictions must be in compliance with federal law by December 8, 2017. 

Action Needed

None – Information Only


Taxes on aviation fuel (except for those in effect on December 30, 1987) are considered airport revenue subject to the revenue use requirement.  Airport revenues are to be used for the capital and operating costs of the airport, local airport system, or any other local facility that is owned or operated by the person or entity that owns or operates the airport that is directly and substantially related to the air transportation of passengers or property. However, revenues from state taxes on aviation fuel may be used to support state aviation programs.

The Amendment confirms FAA's long-standing policy on federal requirements for the use of proceeds from taxes on aviation fuel. Accordingly, the Amendment considers state or local taxes on aviation fuel (except taxes in effect on December 30, 1987) to be airport revenue subject to the revenue-use requirements.  The Amendment applies prospectively to the use of proceeds from both new taxes and to existing taxes that do not qualify for grandfathering from revenue use requirements.

The FAA recognized the challenges inherent in state and local governments' immediate compliance with federal obligations, and provided all affected entities three years to come into compliance.  The Amendment permitted state and local governments the opportunity to submit an Action Plan to the FAA outlining how the entities will ensure that any funds collected from aviation fuel taxes will be used for airport needs by December 8, 2017.   Compliance with these federal requirements can be especially challenging, politically and fiscally, for those state and local governments that may have used aviation fuel sales tax revenues for critical municipal purposes other than aviation needs.

An airport operator or State government submitting a grant application under the Airport Improvement Program must provide assurance that revenues from state and local government taxes on aviation fuel will be used for certain aviation-related purposes. These purposes include airport capital and operating costs, and state aviation programs. The policy amendment applies prospectively to the use of proceeds from both new taxes and to existing taxes that do not qualify for grandfathering from revenue use requirements, and requires a reconciliation period effective on the date of the policy amendment.

The Office of Chief Counsel and the Division of Compliance and Management Analysis (ACO) will begin reviewing the Action Plans that have been submitted by state and local governments to the FAA.  If the Action Plan reviews reveal any possible deficiencies, the FAA will communicate with the Action Plan submitter to request further clarification or more information to determine compliance with revenue requirements.  We will continue to work with states and local jurisdictions to conform to federal law on the use of aviation fuel tax revenues.  The review process will continue until December 8, 2017 when all states and local governments are required to be in compliance with federal law.

After December 8, 2017, ACO will begin a random review of state and local governments levying taxes on aviation fuel to determine compliance with the Amendment

SUBMITTED BY:          Federal Aviation Administration             

LAST UPDATED:         October 26, 2016

Aviation Safety:  Organizational and Culture Change


The two largest organizations within the Office of Aviation Safety (AVS) -- the Flight Standards Service (AFS) and the Aircraft Certification Service (AIR) -- are undergoing significant organizational and cultural changes for greater efficiency and to use risk-based decision-making in oversight of the dynamic aviation industry. 

Action Needed

None – Information Only


Future of Flight Standards

The Flight Standards Service promotes safe air transportation by setting the standards for certification and oversight of airmen, air operators, air agencies, and designees. 

To keep pace with the constant changes in the dynamic aviation industry, the Future of Flight Standards project involves cultural and structural changes for greater accountability, better use of resources, and change readiness. Organizational culture changes at the individual and enterprise levels are already underway, with a focus on interdependence, critical thinking, and consistency for individuals and training managers in the competencies of change management, and the "coach approach" to leadership, helping their employees by expanding awareness and sharing experience. Organizational structural changes to increase efficiency, eliminate multiple interfaces, and integrate surveillance activities are starting with the implementation of a plan to shift from a geographic structure to a function-based structure.  We are implementing these changes in a way that minimizes disruption to individual employees and stakeholders.

AIR Transformation

The Aircraft Certification Service is the office responsible for administering safety standards governing the design, production, and airworthiness of civil aeronautical products and overseeing design, production, and airworthiness certification programs to ensure compliance with prescribed safety standards.

AIR Transformation is a comprehensive approach to becoming more efficient and effective.  By

moving away from transactional-type activities in the certification path, AIR is shifting the focus to up front planning, performance based standards, and robust risk-based oversight. AIR avoids being a bureaucratic hurdle in the "critical path" of certification by engaging industry early to prepare for new technology and through an increased emphasis on risk-based systems oversight and corrective action to fulfill our safety mission.  The framework of AIR Transformation includes three pillars: Refresh the certification strategy; invest in management systems to improve performance; and improve our organization and investment in our people. These are supported by two foundational elements, change management and industry commitment, that are critical for a successful AIR Transformation.

SUBMITTED BY:          Federal Aviation Administration             

LAST UPDATED:         October 26, 2016

Near Term Rulemakings


The FAA is pursuing several rulemaking projects which will come into effect in the near future.  These include; Alternative Pilot Physical Examination and Education Requirements, Drug and Alcohol Testing for Foreign Repair Stations, and Part 23 – Airworthiness Standards for Small Airplanes.

Action Needed

None – Information Only


Alternative Pilot Physical Examination and Education Requirements

The FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016 (Pub. L. 114-190) was enacted on July 15, 2016. Section 2307 of the Act, Medical Certification of Certain Small Aircraft Pilots, directed the FAA to issue or revise regulations to ensure that an individual may operate as pilot in command without an FAA issued medical certificate if the pilot and aircraft meet conditions as outlined in the Act. The FAA is amending its regulations to implement the Congressional requirements.

Drug and Alcohol Testing for Foreign Repair Stations

The 2012 FAA reauthorization (Pub. L. 112-095), Section 308(d), required the FAA to promulgate a proposed rulemaking that requires employees of U.S. certificated repair stations located outside of the United States to be covered by a testing program acceptable to the FAA and consistent with the laws of the state where the repair station is located.  The FAA published an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, "Drug and Alcohol Testing of Certain Maintenance Provider Employees Located Outside of the United States" requesting additional information from the public and interested foreign governments to inform the development of a rule and the analysis of its economic impact.  The FAA received 76 substantive comments that indicated U.S interests supported the proposal and the international community opposed it strongly. Consistent with the Congressional direction, FAA is drafting a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

SUBMITTED BY:          Federal Aviation Administration             

LAST UPDATED:            January 6, 2017

Risk Based Decision Making for Safety Oversight


To reach the next level of safety in an increasingly busy, complex, and global air transportation environment, the FAA has instituted a proactive safety management approach. This approach ensures that the outcomes of any management or system activity incorporate safety considerations. We have implemented this approach through the U.S. State Safety Program (SSP) enabled by the FAA Safety Management System (SMS)—both of which are consistent with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) SSP and SMS frameworks. The FAA Risk-Based Decision Making Strategic Initiative further focuses our efforts on ensuring that we have the components in place for successful safety management.

Elements supporting our safety management approach include the FAA SMS, the FAA Compliance Philosophy, the Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing program, the Commercial Aviation Safety Team the Runway Incursion Mitigation  program, Unmanned Aircraft Safety Team, the General Aviation Joint Steering Committee , and General Aviation Modernization effort.

Action Needed

None – Information Only


FAA Safety Management System (SMS)

The FAA defines an SMS as a formal, top-down, organization-wide approach to managing safety risk and assuring the effectiveness of safety risk controls. It includes systematic procedures, practices, and policies for the management of safety risk. A successful SMS relies on safety data from the people who work in the industry—pilots, controllers, mechanics, flight crew, and manufacturers. An SMS establishes a formalized, safety risk-based approach to the management of an organization. Processes, decisions, activities, acquisitions, procedural changes, and program modifications are examined from a safety perspective to ensure that hazards are spotted and studied and the associated risk is mitigated before implementing a change.

FAA Compliance Philosophy

The FAA Administrator signed the FAA Compliance Philosophy, on June 26, 2015.  The Compliance Philosophy is the overarching guidance for implementing the FAA's strategic safety oversight approach, including all users of the NAS.  The approach emphasizes the accountability of all stakeholders but concentrates our energy and resources on safety risk and problem solving.  It builds upon the work that the FAA has been doing in the implementation of SMS across the FAA, as well as the work that industry has been doing in implementing SMSs.

The Compliance Philosophy is the latest step in the evolution of how the FAA works with those we regulate. It focuses on the most fundamental goal of finding problems in the NAS before they result in an incident or accident, using the most effective means to fix those problems, and monitoring the situation to ensure they stay fixed.

Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing (ASIAS) Program

The ASIAS program is a safety analysis and data sharing collaboration involving industry and government to proactively analyze broad and extensive data to advance aviation safety. The primary objective of ASIAS is to provide a national resource for use in discovering common, systemic safety problems that span multiple airlines, fleets, and regions of the global air transportation system. ASIAS links together internal FAA datasets, airline proprietary safety data, publicly available data, manufacturers' data, and other data sources to identify safety trends in the NAS, leading to a comprehensive and proactive approach to aviation.

Commercial Aviation Safety Team (CAST)

CAST is a joint government-industry group that includes representatives from federal agencies, air carriers, labor organizations, manufacturers, and other industry organizations. CAST is led by co-chairs representing the government and industry, and sets overall policy and oversees the activities of working groups analyzing systemic safety issues in commercial aviation. These groups leverage data from the ASIAS program to understand the underlying contributing factors to safety issues and develop mitigation strategies. CAST members voluntarily adopt the most effective strategies as safety enhancements and develop plans for implementing and monitoring their effectiveness.

CAST's mission is focused on a continuous improvement framework built on the proactive identification of current and future risks, the development of mitigations as needed, and the monitoring of the effectiveness of implemented actions. Using this approach, CAST aims to reduce the U.S. commercial fatality risk by 50 percent from 2010 to 2025.  CAST has moved beyond the "historic" approach of examining past accident data to a more proactive approach requiring greater emphasis on acquiring, sharing, and analyzing aviation safety data.

Voluntary programs such as the Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP), Flight Operational Quality Assurance (FOQA) program, and Air Traffic Safety Action Program (ATSAP) give air carriers and the government insight into millions of operations so potential systemic safety issues and trends are identified. Using incident data, CAST identifies emerging and changing risks to develop mitigation strategies for voluntary implementation by the aviation community before accidents or serious incidents occur.  CAST has adopted 99 safety enhancements since 1998, with the last 25 enhancements based on non-accident data.

Runway Incursion Mitigation (RIM) Program

The RIM program is an FAA national initiative launched in June 2015 to reduce the number of runway incursions at U.S. airports. The program helps identify airport risk factors that might contribute to a runway incursion and develop strategies to help airport sponsors mitigate those risks. Runway incursions occur when an aircraft, vehicle, or person enters the protected area of an airport designated for aircraft landings and take-offs. Risk factors that contribute to runway incursions may include unclear taxiway markings or airport signage, as well as more complex issues such as the runway or taxiway layout. Through RIM, the FAA is focusing on reducing runway incursions by addressing risks at specific locations within airports that have a history of runway incursions.

When it kicked off, RIM identified 112 locations within towered airports where runway incursions have the potential of recurring. Over the next 10 to 15 years, the program will span more than 70 airports. RIM is a voluntary program aimed primarily at airport operators. Many of the mitigation projects will be eligible for funding from the Airport Improvement Program (AIP). Past runway incursion mitigation efforts have been focused locally, but RIM changes that in two significant ways—it is purely data driven and it is also a national effort. RIM is founded on risk-based decision making that builds on safety management principles by using a consistent approach to address emerging safety risks.

General Aviation Joint Steering Committee (GAJSC)

General aviation (GA) makes up the majority of the U.S. civil aviation fleet and performs a variety of critical functions—everything from personal transportation to support for hurricane relief efforts.  The FAA has set a specific performance goal for reducing the GA fatal accident rate to no more than one fatal accident per 100,000 flight hours by 2018.  The FAA has set a specific performance goal for reducing the GA fatal accident rate to no more than one fatal accident per 100,000 flight hours by 2018.  Our efforts have succeeded; the current estimated 2016 GA fatal accident rate (.92 per 100,000 flight hours) is well below the 2018 target (1.0 per 100,000 flight hours). 

To continue meeting this goal, the FAA has partnered with industry in the GAJSC to analyze accident trends and recommend safety enhancements (SEs). This committee is modeled after CAST and uses a data-driven, consensus‑based approach to reduce the GA fatal accident rate. The committee reviewed the previous 10 years of GA accidents to identify the primary accident types. They then formed working groups to conduct detailed analyses of the most prevalent accident types. The top three accident types in GA are loss of control, controlled flight into terrain, and system component failure – power plant (engine issues).

The committee working groups identify issues and risks found in GA accidents and develop SEs to address those issues. Each SE describes the mitigation and explains the steps for implementation. The SE also describes the metrics that will be used to ensure the solutions are effective. The committee partners with ASIAS to monitor known risk, evaluate the effectiveness of deployed mitigations, and detect emerging hazards. We believe this partnership with industry will enable the right kinds of interventions to improve safety in all sectors of the GA community.

General Aviation Modernization

Many new safety features have been difficult for owners and operators of GA airplanes to install due to real and perceived barriers in the current FAA certification policy and regulations. The call for change to remove these barriers has come from: industry through recommendations via the Part 23 Reorganization Aviation Rulemaking Committee and other lobbying efforts; Congress via the Federal Aviation Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 and the Small Airplane Revitalization Act of 2013; and from within the FAA.

The Aircraft Certification Service (AIR) is committed to finding solutions, in collaboration with industry, to remove barriers to incorporating safety features on small FAA-certificated aircraft to support the modernization of the existing GA fleet. The FAA has worked with GA stakeholders to authorize installation of several new technologies that enhance safety.

The primary large-scale GA certification refresh effort is based on rewriting the certification rules for small aircraft. The rewrite intends to reduce various certification barriers and costly prescriptive requirements without decreasing safety by using performance-based regulations in conjunction with industry consensus standards. The rewrite also includes a small, but significant, change that will facilitate the production of low-risk equipment produced for installation in type-certificated airplanes. The FAA anticipates publishing the final rule by the end of calendar year 2016.

SUBMITTED BY:          Federal Aviation Administration

LAST UPDATED:         January 9, 2017

Air Traffic Controller Hiring and Staffing


Following the air traffic controller strike of 1981, the FAA hired thousands of new controllers over the next decade. Air traffic controllers are eligible for retirement at age 50 with 20 years of service, or at any age with 25 years of service, but have a mandatory retirement age of 56.  As a result, the post-strike hiring wave created the potential for a spike in retirements starting in the mid-2000s. In response to congressional mandates, FAA has created an annual Controller Workforce Plan (CWP) in each of the last ten years that includes detailed retirement, training, and hiring forecasts.

Action Needed

None – Information Only.  However, FAA should seek clarification of the law to ensure the retired military controller population is not unintentionally excluded from air traffic controller hiring opportunities due to changes enacted as a result of the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016 (P.L. 114-190).


FAA's recent hiring plans have been designed to phase in new hires as needed over time. This will avoid creating another major spike in retirement eligibility in future years like the one resulting from the 1981 controller strike. 

Though air traffic demand has declined significantly since 2000, the agency anticipated an increase in controller retirements, and in 2005 began hiring more controllers each year to make sure enough trained controllers were on board when the retirement wave began to swell. It currently takes an average of two to three years to fully certify trainees to become controllers.

The FAA has faced a number of hiring challenges in recent years, including managing through the lingering effects of sequestration.  In the last five years, the FAA has hired approximately 4,700 new air traffic controllers. FAA plans to hire more than 7,400 new controllers over the next five years to keep pace with expected attrition and traffic growth.  In FY16, the agency surpassed its annual hiring target through the implementation of a revised hiring process intended to expand consideration to a larger segment of U.S. citizens.  Recent legislation (P.L. 114-190) enacted due to Collegiate Training Initiative (CTI) concerns has again altered this process. However the FAA remains on track to meet controller hiring targets through FY19 establishing a robust and continuous trainee pipeline. 

As the FAA continues to bring these new employees on board, we must carefully manage the process to ensure that our trainees are placed in the facilities where we need them and progress in a timely manner to become fully certified.   The FAA will also continue to take action at the facility level should adjustments become necessary due to changes in traffic volume, retirements or attrition.

Current Efforts

Hiring, however, is just one part of the challenge. Other issues involve controller placement, controller training and controller scheduling. Once newly hired and transferring controllers are placed, they need to be effectively and efficiently trained, and assigned to efficient work schedules. To address these challenges, the FAA has:

  • Developed a national prioritization staffing tool that ensures placement of new hires and transferring employees are matched with the facilities with the greatest staffing needs;
  • Implemented a two-track national vacancy announcement in accordance with the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016 (P.L. 114-190) requiring the agency to separate applicants into multiple selection pools, each with hiring quotas, based upon educational background and veteran status.
  • Signed a Memorandum of Understanding to implement a centralized Employee Request for Reassignment process and National Release Policy that expedites the movement of controllers from healthy facilities to those with the greatest need;
  • Established an Executive Steering Committee made up of leaders from various stakeholder staff offices and lines of business outside of the Air Traffic Organization to quickly resolve issues, establish policy, and monitor the hiring and placement process on a biweekly basis;
  • Adopted the recommendations from a cross-functional Tiger Team charged with identifying and resolving bottlenecks and potential issues within the hiring and placement process; and
  • Agreed to use of the Operational Planning and Scheduling tool with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association that can take into consideration traffic demand and fatigue mitigation.

We estimate it will take three years to fully catch up on our hiring efforts following the effects of sequestration.  The current FY17 Hiring Plan is 1,781 new Air Traffic Controllers. The agency has replaced the Air Traffic Selection and Training exam with the Air Traffic Skills Assessment pre-employment test, which was used for our recent vacancy announcement in August 2016. 

Effective and efficient training, properly placing new and transferring controllers, and efficient scheduling of controllers are all important factors in the agency's success. 

SUBMITTED BY:          Federal Aviation Administration             

LAST UPDATED:         October 26, 2016

Union Representation at the FAA


The following provides an overview of the union presence at the FAA.

Action Needed

None – Information Only


The FAA has a large union presence.  It is one of the few federal agencies to negotiate pay with their labor unions, per FAA personnel reform, discussed in the issue paper on the 'FAA Personnel Management System'.  The FAA is an operational agency with a labor-intensive mission, as a result, labor costs associated with collective bargaining agreements are a large component of the FAA's funding. 

There are currently eight unions representing approximately 34,700 employees or 76% of the FAA workforce. There are 36 separate bargaining units, and 18 separate collective agreements.

The largest union at the FAA is the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA).  In 1981, President Reagan fired 11,345 air traffic controllers and the union that represented them was decertified by the Federal Labor Relations Authority for conducting an illegal strike.  In 1987, NATCA was certified to represent the controllers.  It currently contains 16 bargaining units with three contracts and covers over 40% of the FAA workforce, or nearly 18,500 employees.

In June 2006, after years of negotiations, the FAA implemented a new labor contract with controllers, according to the procedures that were in place at the time and authorized by Congress.  NATCA's dissatisfaction with the terms of the new contract resulted in a confrontational relationship that lasted until October 2009, when a mediation panel sitting as arbitrators decided terms of a new contract.  In 2012, the agency and NATCA agreed to extend this agreement, with some modifications, and in July 2016, a new successor agreement was reached with NATCA with a 72-month duration.

The second largest union at the FAA is the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS), which represents nearly 24% of the FAA workforce. PASS has five bargaining units with two contracts, and represents nearly 11,000 employees including air traffic technical operations at various facilities, aviation system standards, aviation safety, flight standards service, and aircraft-manufacturing inspection-related functions in Aircraft Certification Service.  Both PASS contracts expire in 2017.

The following is a list of employee unions:

    • NATCA (National Air Traffic Controllers Association) represents approximately 18,500 employees, including air traffic controllers, engineers, architects, automation and staff support specialists, and various smaller units (16 bargaining units altogether).
    • PASS (Professional Aviation Safety Specialists) represents approximately 11,000 employees, including technical and flight inspection service specialists, flight standards, telecommunication and manufacturer certification (five bargaining units).
    • AFSCME (American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees) represents one unit with approximately 2,300 headquarters employees.
    • AFGE (American Federation of Government Employees) represents approximately 1,600 employees, including flight inspection, aircraft maintenance and Aerospace Medicine.
    • NFFE (National Federation of Federal Employees) represents approximately 625 employees at the Hughes Technical Center, including airport and aircraft safety, research and development (three bargaining units).
    • LIUNA (Laborers' International Union of North America) represents approximately 200 aircraft maintenance and engineering employees.
    • PAACE (Professional Association of Aeronautical Center Employees) represents approximately 300 employees, including training and development specialists, at the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center (two bargaining units).
    • NAGE (National Association of Government Employees) represents approximately 250 air traffic assistants, flight data communications employees, and one small unit of Flight Inspection Service headquarters employees.

Collective Bargaining Negotiation Status as of September 2016

Collective Bargaining Negotiation Status as of September 2016
NATCA CPC Agreement14,708July 24, 2022
NATCA Consolidated Agreement2,103July 1, 2017
NATCA Multi-Unit Agreement1,680July 1, 2017
PASS Tech Ops Agreement7,244December 16, 2017
PASS AVS Agreement3,726December 15, 2017
AFSCME2,314September 12, 2017
AFGE (1376 and 1392)109December 1, 2011 (renewed annually*)
AFGE (1373)1,155September 2002 (renewed annually*)
AFGE (0165)12October 20, 2015 (unit going away)
AFGE (1035)294December 31, 2015
NFFE (1005, 1399, and 1075)627July 26, 2018 (est.)
LIUNA206September 18, 2019
PAACE (1367)6May 10, 2019
PAACE (5936) AMA Instructors/ Non Instructors304May 2, 2019
PAACE (5936) AMA900August 9, 2019
NAGE (407)171February 6, 2018
NAGE (1342)16October 10, 2005 (renewed annually*)
NAGE (1391)52October 7, 2005 (renewed annually*)

There are approximately 1,400 employees at the FAA who are eligible to join a union but are not represented.  There are approximately 9,600 employees who are not eligible to belong to a union due to statutory limitations governing their role.  The FAA currently supports collaborative and productive labor-management relations and participates in Labor-Management Forums as required under Executive Order 13522.

Note: Many of the contracts between the FAA and its labor unions contain 'rollover' clauses whereby, upon reaching their expiration dates, agreements continue in force unless requested otherwise by either party.

SUBMITTED BY:                Federal Aviation Administration

LAST UPDATED:               January 9, 2017



Driven by understanding the growing threat to government systems and networks from adversaries through information technology systems, the FAA prioritizes cybersecurity across all aspects of its operations and across all domains. This prioritization spans the NAS as a critical infrastructure for the nation, to looking forward through NextGen and the R&D domain as we modernize the NAS, all enabled by the Mission Support domain protecting the totality of the FAA mission through Information Technology. The FAA engages in a holistic cybersecurity program in collaboration with the federal government, the aviation sector, and other partners through tactical activities, governance and leadership oversight, collaboration, and situational awareness.

Action Needed

None – Information Only.  Per requirements in the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016 (P.L. 114-190), the agency is planning on providing periodic reports to Congress on its progress on implementing the Aviation Cybersecurity provisions.


Cybersecurity is a key initiative across aviation – including the NAS, Mission Support Systems, and R&D as we move towards NextGen, as well as partnerships across the government and the private sector.  Aviation cybersecurity is a joint responsibility across the FAA and its public and private partnerships.

Governance and Collaboration

Within the FAA, Cybersecurity is governed by the Cybersecurity Steering Committee (CSC) to ensure a holistic approach to Cyber activities across the FAA.  The CSC is led by the FAA Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) and is comprised of executives representing the NAS, Mission Support, R&D Operating Domains as well as Security, Safety, and the DOT CISO.  This body performs the Risk Executive function for the FAA to ensure consistent risk acceptance decisions as well as provide an approach for greater understanding of integrated operations and associated risks.

The CSC has completed a great deal of work since its creation and it continues to progress to protect FAA systems in a holistic and collaborative manner.  The CSC initially undertook two foundational activities, an update to the FAA Cybersecurity Strategy and redefining FAA's Cybersecurity Roles and Responsibilities.  The FAA Cybersecurity Strategy is updated annually, and the FAA Cybersecurity Roles and Responsibilities were revised to align with the organizational state of the agency, as well as to bring them to currency with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework. One element includes the review of High Value Risks in cyber incidents monthly, understanding how those risks affect the mission, and recommending either further remediation or acceptance of risk.  The CSC has worked together to ensure agency-wide participation in cyber exercises such as Cyber Guard, is working closely with the Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee (ARAC) to ensure regulation is robust enough to cover cybersecurity requirements, and is fostering internal programs to improve cybersecurity such as implementing the DHS Continuous Diagnostic and Mitigation (CDM) program.  In implementing CDM and other security software and tooling, the R&D domain's Cybersecurity Test Facility (CyTF) helps ensure testing is performed on security tooling with a primary goal of understanding the impacts of changes to the NAS and its system of systems.

Tactical and Operational Actions

Many of the tactical /operational activities underway include penetration testing, threat modeling, security architecture review, and acquisition updates, and a DHS-led Commercial Aviation Task Force to name a few.  FAA is also transforming the DOT/FAA Security Operations Center (SOC) to improve processes, communications and escalation, tooling and analysis capability in order to continue to protect the FAA mission from cyber threats. The FAA routinely assesses its compliance with the cybersecurity requirements in the Federal Information Systems Management Act (FISMA) and where appropriate, identifies enterprise solutions.  FAA continues to do outreach and engagement with public and private entities of the Aviation domain.  The ARAC for Aircraft Systems Information Security Protection is examining the potential need for additional rulemaking to address cybersecurity threats in aircraft and aircraft systems.  As information technology has become more integral to the operation of aviation, it is crucial to ensure that the use of technology be overseen by FAA regulatory authorities.

SUBMITTED BY:          Federal Aviation Administration             

LAST UPDATED:         October 26, 2016

FAA Contract Tower Program


Contract towers are air traffic control towers funded by the FAA but staffed by employees of private businesses. The Federal Contract Tower (FCT) program was established in 1982 to allow the agency to contract out operation of some low-activity towers. There are currently 253 contract towers, for which the FAA pays for air traffic control services on a contract basis. Like most federal investments, the FAA is required to perform benefit-cost analysis (BCA) to determine eligibility for participation in the FCT program. Reductions in aviation traffic and the application of more detailed costing data in the BCA may cause many airports in the FCT program to have updated benefit-cost ratios below 1.0. Because of the economic crisis, FAA suspended BCA in 2008 so that the accompanying downturn in aviation traffic would not negatively impact the FCT program. The agency also decided to take advantage of this timing by updating the outdated methodologies that inform the BCA process. This process is ongoing and is taking longer than originally anticipated. Once the underlying methodologies and guidance documents are updated, the FAA will be able to resume BCA for both new and existing contract towers. 

Action Needed

The new Administration will need to continue efforts to finalize BCA updates and resume adjudicating pending applications to the FCT program. Additionally, recent Senate and House authorizing and appropriating bills have included language that could significantly revise the formula for the program and direct a new Administration to take specific actions that may shape the FCT program going forward.  Those proposals did not become law, but may resurface next year.


There are 253 contract towers in the program with an estimated annual contract value of $154.4 million ($750+ million over the current five year contract period). This contract covers operations and maintenance costs. Airports are responsible for funding capital expenses, including construction and maintenance of towers. While capital improvements at most contract towers are funded without federal assistance, limited funding is available under the Airport Improvement Program statute (Title 49 U.S.C. § 47124) for such improvements.  This provision allows an airport to receive up to $2 million dollars in AIP grant funding for construction or equipment for a tower that is approved to enter the FCT program.  This $2 million is a maximum limitation for the airport. The proposed FY17 budget includes continued funding for the contract tower program ($159 million).

In order to join the FCT program, an airport must, among other requirements, have an approved operational tower and receive a benefit-cost ratio of at least 1.0 from the FAA. The FAA is legally obligated to use BCA when establishing an air traffic control tower (including new federal contract towers) and to periodically assess the continued cost-effectiveness of federal contract control towers. For towers already in the FCT program, if costs exceed benefits, the local tower sponsor has the opportunity to fund a pro-rata share of the costs and join the Cost Share Program. For the Cost Share Program, the local proportion is statutorily capped at 20% and airport sponsors have an 18 month grace period before being required to assume the local cost share.  Currently there are 16 towers that participate in the Cost Share Program.

Although FAA halted BCA because of the economic crisis, the FAA has decided to maintain this moratorium for all FCTs pending completion of a long-overdue update to the underlying benefit-cost methodology. This continued suspension of BCA has led to consternation among several new applicants who want to join the program, and among Cost Share Program participants who believe they should be paying less.

Other notable information about the FCT Program:

  • Two airports that received BCAs before the moratorium have completed construction of their towers and joined the program. A third airport, Destin Executive Airport, has been admitted into the program and is expected to be operational in June 2017.
  • The FCT program provides ATC services at control towers throughout the United States (including Hawaii), Guam, Puerto Rico, Northern Mariana Islands (Saipan), and the U.S.  Virgin Islands.
  • The current air traffic control services and aviation liability insurance broker contracts cover a five-year period, beginning July 2015.
  • 247 contract towers are operated under national contracts awarded to Midwest Air Traffic Control Services, Serco Management Services Inc., and Robinson Aviation (RVA) Inc.
  • Six FCTs are operated under an Interagency Agreement with the Air National Guard. 
  • Aviation liability insurance coverage is provided for each location through the use of an Insurance Broker, Alliant Insurance. The broker advises the FAA on all phases of obtaining and maintaining aviation liability insurance throughout the life of the contract.
  • There are approximately 1,400 contract controllers, all of whom meet the same qualification and training requirements as FAA controllers.
  • FCTs provided service for more than 15 million operations in FY15 (44% of U.S. general aviation tower traffic and 29% of total U.S. tower air traffic).
  • FCTs represent 53% of all the Federal air traffic control towers in the U.S.
  • Eight FCTs have infrastructure issues that may negatively impact operations.

SUBMITTED BY:          Federal Aviation Administration             

LAST UPDATED:            January 9, 2017

FAA Acquisition Authority


In 1996, the FAA was granted independence from all generally applicable acquisition laws and from Department of Transportation (DOT) decision-making processes related to acquisitions.  In accordance with the law, the FAA has developed its own Acquisition Management System (AMS) and an independent acquisition tribunal. 

Action Needed

While the FAA has an ongoing process for identifying and implementing improvements to the AMS, the DOT Office of the Inspector General (IG) continues to stress that more could be done to improve FAA's cost effectiveness and productivity by implementing additional changes in acquisition program management. This gap in perception points to findings on the edges of the acquisition reform, including coordination issues outside the agency to leverage research by other agencies. Specifically, the IG found the agency lacks a clear process for identifying high-priority R&D to support NextGen.


FAA obtained its unique/distinctive acquisition authority through the 1996 DOT Appropriations Act (P.L. 104-50), which (1) established the FAA Administrator as the final authority for the acquisition of property, services, and equipment of the FAA, who is not required to coordinate with the Department on acquisition matters; (2) exempted FAA from Federal acquisition law (3) directed FAA to implement an acquisition management system that addresses the unique needs (i.e., maintaining and improving the world's largest air traffic system) of the FAA, (4) directed that certain provisions of federal acquisition law shall not apply to the new acquisition management system; and (5) created an Office of Dispute Resolution for Acquisition to resolve protests and claims.

This Congressional exemption from Federal acquisition laws and granting of acquisition authority led to the creation and implementation of the AMS.  The exemption was granted to the FAA because the federal government's acquisition rules and regulations were seen to be impeding the FAA's efforts to modernize an increasingly aging infrastructure.  FAA's approach to Acquisition Reform integrated the entire lifecycle management process, not just procurement and contracting.  The life cycle management process includes requirements definition, investment analysis, procurement, in-service management, and disposal.  The process is managed by the FAA's Joint Resources Council, which satisfied the Office of Management and Budget's Circular A-11 requirement to have an Executive Resources Council.  This integration of the lifecycle management process combines the investment decision, procurement and contracting processes into one seamless AMS.  The overall goals of AMS are to provide more timely and cost effective acquisition.

Compared to acquisition results prior to implementation of AMS, FAA procurement has: (1) reduced the time it takes to award contracts; (2) increased competitive awards; (3) improved cost and schedule performance on acquisitions; (4) met or exceeded its small business participation percentage goals in all categories for five straight years; and (5) developed a procurement and contracting process that is more efficient (e.g., lowest cost to spend ratio, more competition) than federal government peers. 

In addition, FAA's Office of Dispute Resolution for Acquisition has been recognized as a highly effective, efficient and transparent forum for resolution of disputes.

SUBMITTED BY:          Federal Aviation Administration             

LAST UPDATED:         October 26, 2016

FAA Research Initiatives


The FAA continually strives to improve operations in the National Airspace System (NAS) through the development of scientific solutions to current and future air transportation challenges.  This is accomplished by conducting applied research and development in collaboration with industry, academia, and government.

Action Needed

None – Information Only


The National Aviation Research Plan (NARP) is the FAA's performance-based plan to ensure that Research and Development (R&D) investments are well managed, deliver results, and sufficiently address national aviation priorities.  The NARP integrates the FAA R&D programs into a portfolio that addresses the near, mid, and far-term research needs of the aviation community. The NARP features R&D principles and goals that support the strategic visions laid out by the President, Secretary of Transportation, and FAA Administrator.  This approach enables the FAA to address the current challenges of operating the safest, most efficient air transportation system in the world while building a foundation for the future system in an environmentally sound manner.  The FAA R&D portfolio supports both the day-to-day operations of the NAS and the development of NextGen and its principles include improving aviation safety, improving efficiency, and reducing environmental impacts.

The FAA's FY17 Budget Request includes funding to cover several research areas of the agency including continued research in key safety areas such as fire safety, propulsion systems, advanced materials, aircraft icing, continued airworthiness, and funding to support the William J. Hughes Technical Center, where a lot of the agency research is conducted.  In addition, the budget request also includes research in wake turbulence, human factors, clean aircraft technologies, unmanned aircraft systems, and information security.

Through the Transportation Research Board (TRB) of the National Academies, the FAA sponsors the Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP). This is an industry-driven, applied research program that develops practical solutions to problems faced by airport operators.  Funding more than 20 research projects a year, ACRP focuses on research needs that other Federal research programs do not address.

Air Transportation Centers Of Excellence (COE)

The FAA recognizes the need to conduct research and develop the Nation's technology base while educating the next generation of aviation professionals.  The COE program facilitates collaboration and coordination amongst government, academia, and industry to advance aviation technologies and expand FAA research capabilities through congressionally required matching contributions from industry.  In keeping with requirements of the enabling legislation, P.L. 101-508, the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990, the FAA Administrator selects a university team to serve as a COE in specific mission-critical topics.  The FAA COEs are established through cooperative agreements with the Nation's premier universities and their affiliates.  COEs conduct focused R&D and related activities over a period of 10 years working jointly with non-federal entities and the aviation community.   Currently, the FAA is in public-private partnerships with six (6) teams comprised of 75 core and affiliate universities, and more than 200 industry members.

In compliance with P.L. 101-508, the FAA must continue to engage U.S. universities, the aviation community, and various stakeholders to assure that the COE program can continue to advance aviation technologies and expand FAA research capabilities through congressionally required matching contributions.  Through these public-private partnerships, the COE members have generated more than $300 million to help offset the cost of mission-critical FAA research, which has been conducted jointly with subject matter experts throughout the U.S.

COE members match dollar-for-dollar FAA grant awards executed to establish, operate and conduct related research with contributions from non-federal sources.  Additional contributions are also generated through cost-share contracts awarded as activities mature and as FAA seeks deliverables for government purposes.  Over the life of the program, the COE universities with their non-federal affiliates have augmented FAA efforts by aligning our scientists with others throughout the field, resulting in research teams composed of the best and brightest in the Nation.  The FAA intends for each public-private partnership to successfully meet COE requirements and to enable COEs to become a self-sufficient national aviation resource thereafter. 

The FAA currently supports six (6) active public-private partnerships throughout the U.S.  They are:

  • COE for Technical Training and Human Performance – established in 2016;
  • COE for Unmanned Aircraft Systems – established in 2015;
  • COE for Alternative Jet Fuels and Environment – established in 2013;
  • COE for General Aviation Safety, Accessibility and Sustainability – established in 2012;
  • COE for Commercial Space Transportation – established in 2010;
  • Joint COE for Advanced Materials – established in 2004.

The COE business model also partners with other federal agencies. Over the past two decades the FAA has supported NASA, Homeland Security, and the EPA.  Foreign entities have also been supported by jointly funding COE projects.  Most notably, Transport Canada funded COE research as a co-sponsor of the COE for Noise and Emissions Mitigation and has made a commitment to the newly established COE for Alternative Jet Fuels and Environment.

Air Transport Of Lithium Batteries

Lithium batteries have a greater propensity for self-ignition and contribute more energy to an existing fire than previous battery chemistries. Two fatal inflight cargo fires have occurred on freighter aircraft (UPS 747 Dubai, 2010 and Asiana 747 near South Korea, 2011). While the actual ignition source of those fires could not be determined, the lithium battery cargo likely contributed to the severity of the fires. The FAA William J Hughes Technical Center's Fire Safety Branch has conducted extensive testing to document the hazards from a variety of lithium battery types and sizes as well as the ability of existing aircraft fire protection features to mitigate or control fires involving lithium batteries.  These tests clearly showed that the current fire suppression systems in passenger airplane cargo compartments cannot protect against a fire involving a bulk shipment of lithium batteries.  Largely because of the FAA's test findings, a large number of airlines throughout the world have unilaterally ceased shipping lithium batteries on passenger carrying aircraft, Boeing, Airbus, and ICAO have recommended that airlines cease shipping lithium batteries until safer shipping methods are developed and implemented.

The manufacture and use of lithium batteries are increasing with over 4 billion cells produced in 2015.  Most lithium batteries are manufactured in Asia and large numbers are shipped by air to the United States.  Continued support for FAA research, which is now focused on the safe shipment of lithium batteries, is needed to ensure the availability of this important battery technology for consumer portable electronic devices, automotive, and power grid applications. 

In addition to their presence onboard aircraft as both cargo and in personal electronic devices carried by passengers, lithium batteries are increasingly installed in aircraft equipment. Some examples include cockpit electronic flight bags, emergency locating transmitters, floor proximity lighting, and aircraft main batteries.

Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions And Noise (CLEEN) Program

To achieve FAA's NextGen environmental goals of reducing aviation's environmental impacts and energy usage as well as advancing alternative sources of 'drop-in' jet fuels, the FAA has set-up the Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions and Noise (CLEEN) program. CLEEN is a NextGen initiative between FAA and industry to cost share maturation of promising aircraft technologies and advance alternative fuels. The aircraft technologies focus on reduction in aircraft noise, emissions, and fuel burn. The alternative fuels projects focus on testing to support certification and qualification of new pathways for production of sustainable alternative jet fuels.

In 2010, the FAA awarded a five-year cost-sharing agreement to Boeing, General Electric, Honeywell, Pratt & Whitney, and Rolls-Royce to develop CLEEN aircraft technologies, advance alternative jet fuels through performance testing, and demonstrate aiding the certification and qualification process.

To-date, a number of aircraft technologies have matured, culminating in full-scale ground and flight testing. These efforts have demonstrated fuel burn, emissions, noise benefits, and validated the various technologies' readiness to enter into future commercial aircraft designs. The first CLEEN developed technologies have begun entering the aviation system in 2016.  The alternative jet fuel projects under CLEEN have provided test data to support international approval of several alternative jet fuel production pathways. Further, all of the CLEEN companies participated in a coordinated process with other Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to review alternative jet fuel testing data reports that expedited international approval of several new fuels.

The CLEEN Program has received consistent bi-partisan interest and support in Congress, and aviation stakeholders are very supportive of CLEEN. The CLEEN program has received sustained NextGen Research, Engineering and Development (R,E &D) funding, with the addition of Facilities and Equipment (F&E funding) in its earlier years. The initial CLEEN Program received $125 million in total from FY 2009-FY 2014, including plus-ups in the Congressional budget. Subject to budget approval, the FAA plans to invest $100 million over the next five years, with cost-share from industry partners that will match or exceed the FAA contribution.  The CLEEN Program's aircraft technology development projects are coordinated with NASA and the Department of Defense's aircraft and aviation propulsion research efforts. 

Sustainable Alternative Jet Fuels

All of FAA's alternative jet fuels efforts, including the CLEEN program, are part of a well-coordinated set of U.S. Government alternative jet fuel projects. These efforts are guided by the Federal Alternative Jet Fuels R&D Strategy (FAJFS). Sustainable Alternative Jet Fuels (SAJF) is a key element of the FAA strategy to address the environmental and energy challenges facing aviation. "Drop-in" SAJFs can replace petroleum jet fuels without the need to modify engines and aircraft. These fuels can help the environment by reducing emissions that contribute to climate change and degrade air quality. They also can help to expand jet fuel supplies beyond petroleum, improving jet fuel price stability, enhancing supply security, and contributing to economic development.

Since 2006, the FAA has worked in partnership with industry to promote the development and deployment of alternative jet fuels through the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI) ( The FAA sponsors CAAFI in partnership with Airlines for America, the Aerospace Industries Association as well as Airports Council International North America. CAAFI participants include a cross-section of airlines, manufacturers, airports, fuel producers, federal agencies and international entities working together to enable new fuel standards and early production of sustainable alternative aviation fuels. The FAA Office of Environment and Energy (AEE) supports Sustainable Alternative Jet Fuels (SAJF) research through multiple programs and initiatives including CLEEN, the Aviation Sustainability Center (ASCENT) Center of Excellence and CAAFI.  Our ongoing R&D efforts demonstrate that these fuels are safe for use, assess their environmental sustainability, and identify opportunities to reduce their cost.

FAA has established strong partnerships with other Federal agencies including the Departments of Agriculture, Energy and Defense, the EPA, NASA, Department of Commerce, National Science Foundation and State Department.  In April 2013, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack signed a "Farm to Fly" agreement in which DOT, USDA, and the aviation industry agreed to work together to enable a goal of having 1 billion gallons of alternative jet fuel in use by U.S. civil and military aviation by 2018 (this is about 5 percent of U.S. jet fuel use). In July 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy also signed on to the "Farm to Fly" agreement.  However, SAJF production capacity in the U.S. has been slow to develop and it is unlikely that we will meet the 1 billion gallon goal by 2018.  The first alternative jet fuel production facility in the U.S. began deliveries of SAJF to United Airlines at Los Angeles International airport in March 2016.

The pursuit of SAJF has become global with many different initiatives emerging around the world. The FAA coordinates with our counterparts in other governments, with R&D funding organizations and with air worthiness authorities to support qualification efforts and to share research activities and best practices. The Agency has established bilateral cooperation agreements with Australia, Brazil, Germany, Indonesia, and Spain which each have strong alternative jet fuel initiatives. FAA also supports International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) activities on alternative fuels including participating in the ICAO Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection Alternative Fuels Task Force that is working to enable inclusion of SAJF in the global Market Based Measure for international aviation.

General Aviation Gas (Avgas) Transition

This research initiative involves the conversion of approximately 167,000 General Aviation piston aircraft to an unleaded aviation gasoline under a public/private partnership known as the Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative (PAFI). The results of this effort will lead to a fleet wide authorization to allow use of unleaded fuels on the majority of the general aviation fleet. Avgas is the only remaining lead-containing transportation fuel. Lead in Avgas prevents damaging engine knock, or detonation that can result in a sudden engine failure. However, it is a toxic substance that can be inhaled or absorbed in the bloodstream. The FAA along with EPA and industry are partnering to remove lead from Avgas.

In the near term, this effort will continue with the ground testing of 19 different engine models on proposed replacement unleaded fuels, followed by flight test activities.  Testing will culminate at the end of 2018 subsequent to the operational flight test activities of 10 unique aircraft models under the full range of atmospheric conditions (e.g. hot and cold weather) on proposed replacement unleaded fuels.

The FAA continues to work with the EPA to make a smooth transition to ensure the supply of aviation gasoline is not interrupted.  To help "get the lead out," the FAA is supporting the research of alternate fuels at the William J. Hughes Technical Center in Atlantic City. The Technical Center is working with the aircraft and engine manufacturers, fuel producers, EPA, and industry associations to overcome technical and logistical challenges in developing and deploying a new, unleaded fuel.

SUBMITTED BY:          Federal Aviation Administration

LAST UPDATED:          October 26, 2016

Global Leadership


Global leadership has long been one of the FAA’s top priorities.  As such, the FAA established the Global Leadership Initiative (GLI) to guide improvements in safety, air traffic efficiency, and environmental sustainability across the globe through an integrated, data-informed approach to shape global standards, enhance collaboration and harmonization, and solidify U.S. leadership and influence in global aviation matters.  The FAA works collaboratively with U.S. Government and industry stakeholders, as appropriate, in the establishment and management of international issues that impact aviation policy.  Several of the high-level topics to be highlighted in this paper include the overall GLI effort, Caribbean Initiative, engagement with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), global safety issues and potentially hazardous situations outside the United States, and the FAA’s International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) program.

Action Needed

None – Information Only.  These are ongoing efforts to maximize value and benefits from the FAA’s international engagement.



Global Leadership Initiative (GLI)

The FAA launched the Global Leadership Initiative in 2014 and established a governance structure to guide international activities going forward with active involvement by all offices engaging with the international civil aviation community.  Under this strategic initiative, the FAA has sought to better target its efforts and resources to shape the safety and efficiency of the international aviation system.  The Assistant Administrator for Policy, International Affairs, and Environment (APL-1), Jennifer Solomon, is the Executive Sponsor for GLI and participates on the Executive Council (EC) to report out on significant activities.  The Office of International Affairs (API) (part of Ms. Solomon's organization) leads the International Advisory Board (IAB) and the International Steering Committee (ISC), which are the cross-agency groups accountable for the establishment and execution of the FAA's International Strategy and its following strategic focus areas:

  1. Ensure Safety and Security of U.S. Lives
  2. Efficient Global Air Traffic System (ATS) to Support U.S. Economy
  3. Ensure Aviation Growth While Reducing Environmental Impacts
  4. Promote Regulatory Harmonization and Partnerships to Ensure a Seamless Transfer of Technology


Caribbean Initiative

The Caribbean region is of critical importance to the United States.  Not only does the FAA provide air traffic services for a sizable portion[1] of Caribbean airspace, but the region also serves as a top destination for the U.S. traveling public.  According to FAA data, nearly 17% of international flights departing from the United States are headed for destinations in the Caribbean.  Much of the traffic flying to Central America (5.3%) and South America (6.3%) flies through Caribbean airspace.[2]  In 2014, over seven (7) million U.S. passengers flew from the United States to the Caribbean. This regional total is second only to the whole of Europe, which received nearly 12 million U.S. passengers in the same year.[3] Air traffic in the Caribbean is expected to grow rapidly, between 5-6% over the next two decades according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The region is second only to the Middle East in terms of aviation growth.  Further, many of the airports in the Caribbean are not certified to international standards.  

So in 2015, the FAA created the Caribbean Initiative under the agency-wide Global Leadership Initiative to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to help make air travel safer and more efficient for U.S. air carriers and for the traveling public.  The FAA continues to collaborate with regional aviation partners, industry, ICAO and other U.S. Government agencies to identify critical needs and maximize benefits to the U.S. aviation community.  FAA's continued efforts within the Caribbean Initiative fall into three (3) primary focus areas:

  • Collaboration with key partners in the region to implement Air Traffic Flow Management (ATFM) and Collaborative Decision Making (CDM) on a multilateral and bilateral basis;
  • Assistance to improve airport safety in Caribbean States with high levels of U.S. visitors; and
  • Development/implementation of an action plan to address the operational efficiency improvements in FAA-managed Caribbean airspace.


International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

ICAO is a specialized agency of the United Nations that codifies the principles and techniques of international air navigation and fosters the planning and development of international air transport to ensure safe and orderly growth.  The ICAO Council adopts standards and recommended practices concerning air navigation, its infrastructure, flight inspection, prevention of unlawful interference, and facilitation of border-crossing procedures for international civil aviation.  In addition, ICAO defines the protocols for air accident investigation followed by transport safety authorities in countries that signed up to the Convention on International Civil Aviation in 1944, commonly known as the Chicago Convention.  There are 191 member States in ICAO.  The United States is a key member and co-founder of ICAO and contributes a substantial amount of resources, in the form of funding for the ICAO budget (about 25% of the annual ICAO budget), additional specific contributions to individual projects, participation on multiple subordinate Committees and Expert Groups, and multiple short-term assignments of technical specialists.   

The responsibility for coordinating U.S. activities at ICAO is delegated to the FAA.  In addition to daily activities within the ICAO headquarters and seven (7) regional offices, the FAA is involved in contributing personnel and assisting in the development of ICAO standards and recommended practices for use by States and personnel involved in civil aviation.  The FAA is also the U.S. Government lead for the ICAO Assembly, the decision/policy making body of the United Nations that meets every three years to make decisions on standards and policies on safety, air traffic management, and environment that shape the global aviation system and affects the operations and competitiveness of U.S. industry.  The Assembly also establishes the triennial budget and associated work program and elects a 36-member Council as the governing body to carry out the direction given by the Assembly for the next three years.

The 39th ICAO Assembly convened in Montreal, Canada from September 27 – October 7, 2016.  Key U.S. priorities for the 39th Assembly (which were all accomplished) included the following:

  • Obtain agreement on a Global Market-Based Measure (GMBM) for civil aviation, and achieve adoption of the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).
  • Influence global standards for the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) based on U.S. experiences.
  • Ensure the process by which standards and recommended practices are created is continuously scrutinized and adapted to accommodate future needs.
  • Reinforce the danger associated with the carriage of Lithium Ion batteries.
  • Establish a roadmap for integrated ICAO and member state approach to crisis management.
  • Re-elect the U.S. to the ICAO Council and work to ensure size of Council and Air Navigation Commission (ANC) remain at current numbers.
  • Ensure the ICAO triennial budget is approved with a zero-nominal growth.

    Global Safety/Potentially Hazardous Situations Outside the United States

    The FAA has broad oversight responsibilities for U.S. operators  regardless of where they operate around the world and has developed procedures for identifying and responding to an international situation resulting from a conflict situation, heightened tensions, military or paramilitary action, and/or a weapons-related hazard in international airspace may pose risk(s) to the safety of U.S. civil aviation operating therein.  FAA responsibilities include U.S. air carriers, U.S. commercial operators, persons exercising the privileges of an airman certificate issued by the FAA (except when such person is operating a U.S.-registered aircraft for a foreign air carriers), and operators of aircraft registered in the U.S., except when the operator of such aircraft is a foreign air carrier.  

     The FAA issues flight prohibition/advisory Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs) and flight prohibition Special Federal Aviation Regulations (SFARs) for U.S. civil aviation operating on routes or specific airspace when the foreign State has not, in the FAA's judgment, taken adequate steps to identify, address and/or mitigate the risks to U.S. civil aviation.  The most common response to a potentially hazardous situation is to issue an advisory or flight prohibition NOTAM that allows FAA to quickly distribute information regarding unanticipated or temporary changes to services, components of, or hazards in, the National Airspace System (NAS) or global threats to civil aviation.  Flight prohibition NOTAMs, issued as emergency orders from the FAA Administrator, are normally followed up with a flight prohibition SFAR (a temporary rule to address temporary situations).

    The FAA's determination of whether to issue, amend, or continue a flight prohibition or advisory NOTAM/SFAR is primarily intelligence-driven, although aviation safety hazards arising due to tensions between States may also form the basis for such actions.  The safety of U.S. air carriers, other U.S. operators, and their passengers and crews is our highest priority.  Some of the factors in determining whether a potentially hazardous situation exists that requires FAA action include: State and non-State actor attack(s) targeting aviation interests that directly or indirectly; credible threats to civil aviation; military/paramilitary activity or operations that could directly or indirectly pose a threat to civil aviation operations or infrastructure; and, flight safety risks and/or hazards resulting from loss of and/or conflicting Air Navigation Services.

    The FAA collaborates extensively with the global aviation community on the impact of FAA NOTAMs/SFARSs pertaining to non-U.S. controlled airspace.  In addition, the FAA has started efforts with the United Kingdom, France and Germany to increase sharing of intelligence information on airspace safety issues and security assessments.  FAA also continues to engage the European Commission (EC) to promote the FAA methodology used for aviation security assessments as the baseline model for European member States.  Finally, the FAA is collaborating with ICAO, States and the airline industry to explore ways to reduce the operational impacts that have resulted from the issuance of FAA prohibition NOTAMs/SFARs.  

     As of January 2017, the following chart depicts the current status of FAA-issued overseas NOTAMs and SFARs.


CountryTypeExpiration Date
AfghanistanAdvisory24 Dec 2017
Egypt/SinaiAdvisory30 Mar 2017
IranAdvisory09 Sep 2017
KenyaAdvisory26 Feb 2017
MaliAdvisory26 Feb 2017
North Korea Missile LaunchAdvisory27 May 2017
South/North Korea GPS HazardAdvisory27 May 2017
PakistanAdvisory13 Dec 2017
South SudanAdvisory08 Aug 2017



CountrySFARArea ImpactedExpiration Date
IraqSFAR 77Entire FIR11 May 2017
LibyaSFAR 112Entire FIR19 Mar 2017
North KoreaSFAR 79Part of FIRUntil Further Notice
SomaliaSFAR 107Below FL26006 Jan 2018
SyriaSFAR 114Entire FIR29 Dec 2016
UkraineSFAR 113Two FIRs27 Oct 2018
YemenSFAR 115Part of FIR06 Jan 2018


International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) Program

ICAO establishes standards for international civil aviation.  The FAA developed the IASA program to determine whether a foreign State with air carriers that operate or seek to operate to the United States or code share with a U.S. carrier, comply with the standards set by ICAO as the basis for determining their ability to effectively provide oversight of these foreign air carriers.  The program was initiated in 1991 after a series of accidents, inspections and Congressional hearings.  The U.S. went public with findings beginning in 1994, and the FAA is obligated to maintain and publish a country-by-country Category summary listing the results of its IASA determinations on the FAA's public website

Within the IASA Program, the FAA assesses a State's ability to adhere to international aviation safety standards established by ICAO. [4], IASA assessment teams focus on whether a State: 1) has primary aviation legislation and operating regulations in place; 2) has appropriate civil aviation system and safety oversight functions instituted; 3) meets requirements for technical personnel qualifications and training; 4) has required technical guidance, tools and the provision of safety critical information in place; 5) has appropriate licensing, certification, authorization, and approval obligations in place; 6) has surveillance obligations in place; and 7) has resolved any/all safety concerns noted by the ICAO assessment.

There are presently 89 countries which hold a FAA IASA Category rating (see chart on next page).  82 of the listed countries have an IASA Category 1 rating, meaning the FAA has determined these countries meet specific ICAO Standards for safety oversight of civil aviation.  Carriers from Category 1 countries are permitted to operate into the U.S. and/or codeshare with U.S. air carriers in accordance with Department of Transportation (DOT) authorizations.  The remaining 7 countries have an IASA Category 2 rating, meaning that the FAA has determined that the countries do not meet ICAO Standards in regards to safety oversight of civil aviation.  Carriers from Category 2 countries that operate into the U.S. have such service limited to levels that existed at the time of the IASA Category 2 rating and receive heightened surveillance from FAA inspectors when in the U.S.  Carriers from Category 2 countries that seek to start commercial service into the U.S. are not allowed to do so.  Flights operated by carriers from a Category 2 country under code sharing cannot use U.S. airline codes, but they are permitted to put their codes on flights operated by U.S. carriers.  The FAA will remove a country from the IASA program Category summary listing when that country's air carriers no longer provide air service to the U.S., none of the country's air carriers participates in code-share arrangements with U.S. air carriers, and the country's civil aviation authority (CAA) has ceased interacting with the FAA for an extended period of time.

[1] FAA-managed areas in the Caribbean include airspace over Puerto Rico and portions of airspace over the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, and St. Maarten.

[2] Source: FAA Traffic Flow Management System data – U.S. and foreign flag carriers, 2014-15

[3] Source: U.S. Department of Commerce Travel Data 2014 – includes passengers on scheduled and chartered flights, but not general aviation.

[4] More specifically this includes Annex 1 (Personnel Licensing), Annex 6 (Part 1 - Operation of Aircraft - International Commercial Air Transport - Aeroplanes), and Annex 8 (Airworthiness of Aircraft) and ICAO Document 9734.

SUBMITTED BY:    Federal Aviation Administration

LAST UPDATED:    12/22/2016

FAA Crisis Preparedness and Response Process


The FAA has a process to share information, coordinate and make decisions across the lines of business and staff offices whenever there is a threat to the NAS. This process supports the Administrator's responsibilities to sustain FAA's mission essential functions as the U.S. Civil Aviation Authority and Air Navigation Services Provider. This in turn, contributes to and connects agency action to the Government's broader national defense, homeland security, law enforcement, and disaster response efforts. The call for action can be precipitated by unplanned events such as a natural or manmade disaster, terrorist threat, or a planned event requiring special attention, (a National Special Security Event such as national political conventions and Presidential inaugurations).

Action Needed

None – Information Only. 


FAA Order 1900.1, Emergency Operations Plan, establishes policies and procedures for FAA emergency management and assigns implementation responsibilities. Under this process, the FAA Administrator, Deputy Administrator, or lead office will determine the need to convene a Crisis Response Steering Group (CRSG) and/or a Crisis Response Working Group (CRWG) to support the incident response.  The first to be notified for planning or in an emergency, is each LOB/SO's Emergency Planner representative who can reach back for additional subject matter expert support, and has access within the chain of command to coordinate an LOB/SO position. 

  • A Crisis Response Steering Group (CRSG), composed of senior executives from the LOB/SOs, provides policy oversight and makes decisions involved in the response to the threat, incident, or event. The CRSG provides operational guidance and decisions to respond to the incident.
  • The CRWG is composed of action-officer level subject matter experts from relevant LOB/SOs assigned to coordinate agency-wide efforts to respond to an incident, and to support the information and decision-making requirements of the CRSG. A CRWG facilitates agency-wide information sharing, conducts intra- and inter-agency coordination, formulates recommendations for actions, and elevates actions requiring CRSG awareness or decision-making.
  • The FAA Crisis Management Handbook for Significant Events (CMH) provides senior executives and staff with general and incident-specific guidance and reference material for 36 identified emergency event types that can affect the NAS, U.S. operators, or aviation equities.  It identifies lead and supporting offices and outlines their responsibilities for a given CMH event. 
  • The graphic below depicts the composition of a typical CRWG.  Following that is an example of a standing, special-purpose CRWG that facilitates the decision-making process for CMH Chapter 31, Potentially Hostile Situation Outside the U.S., that may include issuance of advisory notices to airmen (NOTAMs) about the potentially hostile situation and/or Special Federal Aviation Regulations.

    SUBMITTED BY:    Federal Aviation Administration

    LAST UPDATED:    January 9, 2017

FAA Personnel Management System


In 1996, the FAA began a human resource management reform effort which included broad exemptions from laws governing federal civilian personnel management. Those laws, known as: Title 5, United States Code – Government Organization and Employees, comprise the basic regulatory foundation for the majority of non-Department of Defense government organizations. Congress provided personnel flexibilities in response to FAA's position that the inflexibility of federal personnel systems constrained the agency's ability to be responsive to the airline industry's needs and to increase productivity in air traffic control operations. The FAA initiated human resource management reform in three broad areas: compensation, workforce management, and labor and employee relations, some of which required exemption from Title 5.  The Administrator signed and made effective the FAA Personnel Management System on March 28, 1996.  A study of FAA's human resource practices currently underway may recommend changes to the FAA's human resource management system to help improve the efficiency of the program and its reputation as a role model of federal human resources reform.

Action Needed

The Administration will have an opportunity to consider proposed revisions to the FAA's human resources management system framework in the vetting process starting in or around the 2ndquarter of FY17.


The FAA operates under a model of personnel reform that was designed 20 years ago. In the area of compensation and performance management, FAA has two initiatives—a new, more flexible pay system in which compensation levels are set within broad ranges, called pay bands, and two performance management systems intended to improve employees' performance through more frequent feedback. Both new systems required an exemption from Title 5. In the area of workforce management, FAA undertook initiatives in workforce planning (the process by which an organization plans and manages the size, capabilities, diversity, and deployment of its workforce), hiring, training, and relocation of employees. While the planning and training initiatives generally did not require exemptions from Title 5, the hiring initiatives did require exemptions. In particular, exemption from Title 5 requirements allowed FAA to establish its own competitive hiring process and bypass centralized government hiring system requirements. Additionally, initiatives in the area of labor and employee relations included the establishment of new groups to represent unions and employees and a policy of collaboration between management and union representatives; neither of which required exemption from Title 5, which continues to govern FAA's labor relations.

The table below outlines for the FAA the exempt and non-exempt provisions to Title 5.

FAA the exempt and non-exempt provisions to Title 5.

Exempt from Title 5

Non-exempt from Title 5

· Hiring, promotions, internal placements

· Pay differentials

· Performance appraisal & awards

· Training

· Reduction-in-force

· Discipline, removal & appeals

· Travel and transportation

· All executive systems

· Suitability, security, and conduct

· Limitations on the right to strike

· "Whistleblower" protection

· Veterans' Preference

· Antidiscrimination

· Compensation for work injury

· Retirement, unemployment compensation and insurance coverage.

The FAA has successfully maintained the Interchange Agreement with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) that permits non-competitive employment consideration of eligible employees between the excepted service HR management system of the FAA and the competitive civil service. The interchange agreement with OPM permits non-competitive employment consideration of eligible employees between the excepted service HR management system of the FAA and the competitive civil service. With this agreement, the FAA has a responsibility to maintain a merit-based Human Resource (HR) system that complies with Federal regulations, ensuring fair and open recruitment and competition, and employment practices free of political influence or other non-merit factors.  The initial interchange agreement with OPM was implemented in November 1997, and since inception has been renewed without interruption.  The continuance of the interchange agreement, which is periodically reviewed by both OPM and the FAA, has been contingent upon the FAA maintaining a merit-based HR system.  OPM's last onsite review of the FAA's personnel management system in May 2009 stated that the FAA continued to function as a "merit system"; and complied with veterans' preference laws.  OPM also found that the FAA effectively used its human capital accountability program to hold managers and supervisors accountable for their HR decisions.  With this favorable review, OPM extended the interchange agreement , but also proposed 16 recommended actions to help strengthen the personnel reforms implemented through the FAA personnel management system. The current DOT interchange agreement, relative to the FAA, expires December 2017. 

There has not been a comprehensive external evaluation of human resource practices since 2009.  A contract was awarded to the National Academy of Public Administration to examine the cost effectiveness of the FAA's personnel management system, the impact of line organizations performing HR functions and to benchmark with other non-Title V and private sector organizations to identify best practices and report the findings in a formal report through the Department of Transportation. The kickoff meeting was held August 31, 2016. The study will be concluded by December 31, 2016 and the final report will be provided by January 30, 2017. This study may recommend changes to the FAA's human resource management system to help improve  efficiency of the program and its reputation as a role model of federal human resources reform.  Any revisions will then be vetted outside of the agency starting in or around the 2nd quarter of FY17.

SUBMITTED BY:                            Federal Aviation Administration       

LAST UPDATED:               October 26, 2016

FAA Audits and External Reviews


FAA is subject to audits, investigations, and other reviews by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General (OIG).

Action Needed

None - information only


  • GAO is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress. Often called the "congressional watchdog," GAO investigates how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars. GAO's work is done at the request of congressional committees or subcommittees or is mandated by public laws or committee reports.
  • The DOT OIG provides independent and objective reviews of the efficiency and effectiveness of DOT programs and operations and in order to detect and prevent fraud, waste, and abuse.  The OIG accomplishes this through audits and investigations.
  • FAA's Office of Audit and Evaluation (AAE) serves as liaison for the GAO and OIG audits involving FAA organizations and programs. AAE ensures that FAA responses to these audits are responsive and thorough.  AAE oversees the implementation of FAA corrective actions identified as a result of outside audits and investigations.

The following audits are currently in progress and where identified, soon to be published:


NextGen Pre-Implementation Funding

Since 2008, Congress has provided more than $6 billion for FAA's NextGen programs, including more than $1.5 billion in developmental projects funded through the Facilities and Equipment or capital account. Given the significant investment in these developmental efforts and the importance of NextGen, the OIG's objectives are to assess FAA's procedures for (1) selecting, justifying, and measuring the outcomes of projects that received developmental funding, and (2) overseeing the execution of these projects.

Review of FAA Policies and Procedures for Hiring New Air Traffic Controllers

(Exit meeting held June 7, 2016 and FAA's response to draft submitted December 8, 2016)

In February 2014, FAA made several changes to its controller hiring process. However, both Congress and the media have expressed concerns about the transparency and effectiveness of FAA's revised processes. Objectives are to identify (1) FAA's justification for adopting the new hiring process and (2) the changes that have occurred in the hiring pool since the process was implemented.

Safety of Flight Decks (Exit meeting held November 9, 2016)

On March 24, 2015, Germanwings Flight 9525 crashed in the Alps, killing all 150 people onboard. The crash is widely believed to be the result of intentional action by the copilot. Since 1994, at least four other incidents have been identified in which a pilot was either suspected or confirmed to have intentionally caused the crash. Additionally, in March 2012, JetBlue Airways Flight 191 was diverted after the first officer locked the captain out of the cockpit due to the captain's erratic behavior. OIG will assess the effectiveness of FAA's actions to (1) identify vulnerabilities to flight deck security, and (2) mitigate identified flight deck vulnerabilities.

FAA Terminal Modernization (TAMR) at Large Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) Facilities

FAA is installing the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS) at 11 large TRACON facilities. STARS deployment provides FAA with a means to support surveillance system requirements and eliminates the need to sustain both STARS and other legacy terminal systems. OIG's objective is to assess FAA's progress in ensuring STARS meets FAA requirements at the 11 large TRACONs and supports NextGen capabilities.

Review of FAA's Progress With Implementing High-Priority NextGen Capabilities (Exit meeting held November 2, 2016)

In September 2013, the NextGen Advisory Committee identified industry's top priorities for NextGen—(1) advancing Performance-Based Navigation (2) employing closely spaced parallel runway operations, (3) enhancing airport surface operations through data sharing, and (4) developing data communications capabilities between the cockpit and air traffic control. OIG's objectives is to evaluate FAA's (1) process for identifying risks to implementing the four prioritized NextGen capabilities, and (2) actions to mitigate any identified risks.

FAA's Ability To Manage Air Traffic Control System Disruptions           

(Final report expected by January 12, 2017)

In recent years, FAA has been confronted with several system failures that have impacted air travel, inconvenienced passengers, and cost airlines and businesses millions of dollars in lost revenue. For example, on August 15, 2015, FAA experienced a problem with its En Route Automation Modernization system at Washington Air Route Traffic Control Center, which disrupted air travel on the East Coast for several days. This disruption, as well as the September 2014 incident at Chicago Center, underscores the importance of ensuring the operational integrity and resiliency of all air traffic control systems and the need for effective contingency plans. OIG's objectives are to (1) assess the effectiveness of FAA's operational contingency plans and the actions taken to mitigate the impact of recent air traffic control system disruptions, and (2) assess FAA procedures for updating operational contingency plans in light of recent events.

FAA's Actions to Address En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) Outages

In March 2015, FAA declared the ERAM system fully operational at all of the Nation's 20 en route facilities. However, since controllers began using the system to control traffic on a daily basis in March 2012, the system has experienced a number of significant outages, most recently at Washington Center in August 2015. Objectives for this audit are to (1) assess the causes of the recent ERAM outages and FAA's actions to address them, and (2) determine whether tradeoffs were made to ERAM's design requirements to meet revised schedules, and assess the delivery of new NextGen capabilities called for in FAA plans.

ERAM Program Information Security Controls

FAA's ERAM program is a key component in the Agency's efforts to modernize the National Airspace System (NAS). ERAM, which replaced 30-year old air traffic control hardware and software at facilities that manage high-altitude traffic, will improve air traffic controllers' ability to separate traffic and process flight plans. Audit objectives are to determine: (1) whether FAA has effectively implemented security controls to address weaknesses identified during our prior review of ERAM, and (2) what other security weaknesses, if any, have developed.

Review of FAA's Runway Safety Initiatives (Entrance meeting scheduled for January 11, 2017)

Runway incursions—incidents involving unauthorized aircraft, vehicles, or people on a runway—are increasing at an alarming rate. Between fiscal years 2011 and 2015, the total number of runway incursions increased by nearly 53 percent, from 954 to 1,456 incidents, with the rate of more serious incidents increasing by 114 percent over the same time period. As a result of this increase, in 2015 the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) initiated a Call to Action forum that focused on developing short-, medium-, and long-term initiatives for addressing the increase in runway incursions. The objective of our audit is to evaluate FAA's progress in implementing initiatives to improve runway safety.


Safety of Small UAS (sUAS)

Key questions are: (1) What are the risks, challenges, and potential mitigations of unauthorized sUAS operations to the National Airspace System? (2) How does FAA track and obtain reports of unauthorized or illegal uses of sUAS? (3) What is known about the nature, scope, and trends of unauthorized sUAS operations in the United States and selected foreign countries? (4) How does FAA's approach to addressing and mitigating the safety and security risks associated with unauthorized sUAS use compare and contrast with the efforts of other countries? (5) What are the key technological, political, and policy challenges related to the safety technologies and procedures being developed?

NextGen Planning and Implementation

Key questions are: (1) To what extent has FAA met key milestones and addressed recommendations for NextGen planning and implementation? (2) What key factors have facilitated FAA's planning and implementation of NextGen? (3) What challenges, if any, remain for planning and implementing NextGen, and what actions could FAA and industry take to mitigate these challenges? (4) What lessons could be learned from other models and approaches to develop and implement other complex systems?

Space Insurance Maximum Loss Methodology

As part of the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (Pub. Law 114-90), GAO was asked to provide an independent assessment of the methodology used by DOT to calculate the maximum probable loss from claims under section 50914 of title 51(National and Commercial Space Programs), U.S. Code, and, if necessary, develop a plan to update that methodology. The objectives GAO has identified are: (1) To what extent did analyses and conclusions in the agency's evluation address previously identified weaknesses in the maximum probable loss methodology? (2) How does the agency plan to implement any proposed changes and what actions, if any, are needed to improve implementation?

Surplus ICBM Motors for Commercial Space Launch

Key questions for this audit are: (1) What is known about the potential impacts on the U.S. government and space launch industry with a change in policy that would allow the transfer of surplus ICBM motors for commercial use? (2) To what extent does DOD's study on options for, and potential costs and benefits of such a modification in policy address congressional needs?

Summary of On-going Audits as of September 2016

  • A total of 36 audits are in progress (21-OIG; 15-GAO) with FAA having a significant role in 13 (9-OIG; 4-GAO), identified above
  • There are nine safety oversight program audits (8-OIG; 1-GAO) 
  • There are five NextGen related audits (4-OIG; 1-GAO) 
  • There are two audits directed at Commercial Space (2-GAO) 


SUBMITTED BY:          Federal Aviation Administration

LAST UPDATED:            January 9, 2017

Updated: Monday, February 6, 2017
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